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Smoking Cessation

Surgeon General Reports Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a new report by U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona.

The report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, concludes that even brief secondhand smoke exposure can cause immediate harm. The report said that the only way nonsmokers are protected from secondhand smoke is if indoor smoking is eliminated.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said that the report is a warning sign to nonsmokers and smokers alike.

"Smoking can sicken and kill, and even people who do not smoke can be harmed by smoke from those who do," said Leavitt.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, causing nonsmokers to inhale many of the same toxins as smokers.

Secondhand smoke exposure can cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children, according to the report.

"The scientific evidence is no indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance," said Carmona. "It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults."

The report also found t hat even the most sophisticated ventilation systems cannot completely eliminate secondhand smoke exposure and only smoke-free environments fully protect non-smokers.

Illinois Governor Signs Smoking Ban

Legislation that bans smoking in all public places in the state of Illinois was signed by Governor Rod Blagojevich to help protect people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

The Smoke-Free Illinois Act, or Senate Bill 500, was sponsored by State Rep. Karen Yarbrough and State Sen. Terry Link. The statewide ban applies to all public places including bars, restaurants, public buildings and work places, making Illinois the 19th state to enforce a smoking ban.

"This legislation…makes it safe for people to visit or work in restaurants and bars without putting their health at risk," said Blagojevich.

The Act overrules most local ordinances that exempted establishments that installed approved air filtration systems from a smoking ban. The ban does not apply to homes, cars, outdoors, private nursing home rooms, home offices not open to the public, retail tobacco shops and certain hotel or motel rooms.

"Cigarette smoke is not only unpleasant for non-smoking patrons," said Link. "That smoke is dangerous – both for diners and employees."

Protect Yourself and Others From Secondhand Smoke

  • Make your home and car smoke-free
  • Ask people not to smoke around you and your children
  • Make sure that your children's day care center or school is smoke-free
  • Choose restaurants and other businesses that are smoke-free
  • Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Avoid secondhand smoke exposure especially if you or your children have respiratory conditions, if you have heart disease, or if you are pregnant.

For more information on the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General, visit

© 2007 Health Resources Publishing