The science behind the campaign
What is secondhand smoke?
Whenever you light up, secondhand smoke is produced. This is the smoke exhaled by you, plus the smoke created by the lit end of a cigarette. Secondhand smoke is made up of gases and microscopic particles. This isn't just unpleasant. It can be a killer. More than 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and odourless.
What's in secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and particles. It contains over 4,500 chemicals, many of which are irritants and toxins, and over 50 are known to cause cancer. The chemicals include arsenic, which is used in rat poison, benzene, which is found in petrol fumes and can cause leukaemia and cyanide, which is poisonous and an industrial pollutant.
What damage can secondhand smoke do?
- People who breathe secondhand smoke are at risk of many of the same diseases as smokers, including cancer and heart disease.
- Breathing secondhand smoke can increase the risk of getting lung cancer by 24% and getting heart disease by 25%.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke, as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.
- Children breathing in other people's cigarette smoke resulted in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions last year in the UK.
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks, meningitis and ear infections.
- As nearly all enclosed work and public places are now smokefree, people are most likely to be exposed to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke in the home and car.
Is smoking with the door open or out of the window ok?
Harmful cigarette smoke can still blow back inside. And because more than 80% of smoke is invisible, you can't see where it goes making it impossible to control.
Will smoking in the car with the windows open protect my family?
Because you can't control or see secondhand smoke, you don't know where it is going. Secondhand smoke can easily blow back into a car when smoking out of the window.
Is secondhand smoke only harmful to children and babies?
Babies and small children's health is particularly at risk from secondhand smoke, but it can harm older kids and adults too. Breathing secondhand smoke can significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease.
Will smoking in one room of the house when the kids are not there protect them?
No. Secondhand smoke can linger in the air long after a cigarette is put out.
How can I protect others from the harms of secondhand smoke?
The only way to protect others from the harms of secondhand smoke is to have a completely smokefree home and car. Order your free Smokefree Kit for facts, tools and tips to help you on your way to a smokefree future.
I smoke - will that mean my children will smoke when they grow up?
Children who grow up in a smoking household are 90% more likely to become smokers themselves. Once addicted, smokers continue to smoke for many years and half of long term smokers die prematurely because of their habit.