TobaccoFreeUtah.org
Utah Indoor Clean Air Act

Health and Economic Impact of Secondhand Smoke

Introduction

For years numerous studies have pointed to the harm associated with using tobacco. There have been thousands of studies that link tobacco use to premature death and illnesses in thousands of Americans. Over 443,000 deaths in the U.S. annually are linked to tobacco use.

Second hand smoke is a mixture of smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette,  pipe, or cigar, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. This mixture contains  more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are know to cause cancer in humans or animals and  many of which are strong irritants (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993) In more recent years there has been a focus on determining what impact exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (or second hand smoke as it is sometimes called) has. As a result, it has become increasingly clear that exposure to ETS is also linked to a significant number of health problems.
 
In fact, one study states that 53,000 Americans lose their lives each smoking adultyear as a result of  exposure to second hand smoke. This makes second-hand smoke the third leading cause of preventable death. Only direct tobacco use and alcohol-related deaths account for more  preventable deaths in the U.S. (Glantz and Parmley, 1995).

Information in this section is included to help the reader better understand the health  and economic impact of exposure to second hand smoke (also commonly known as ETS).  It is hoped that by providing this type of information that employers, employees, visitors,  and customers will better understand why it is necessary to take steps to prevent second hand smoke exposure whenever it is feasible to do so.

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General Health Effects
Basic overview of key health effects of secondhand smoke.
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Bibliography of Secondhand Smoke Studies
An extensive bibliography of over 300 studies on the health impact of secondhand smoke compiled by the Americans for Nonsmoker's Rights. 
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Economic Impact of Secondhand Smoke (SHS)
Reviews some of the economic effects of secondhand smoke.

General Health Effects of SHS

Since the early 1970s the number of studies conducted about second hand smoke and environmental tobacco smoke have increased dramatically. Study after study links exposure to ETS with both major and minor health problems. Unlike some substances,  there is no "safe" level of exposure to second hand smoke (Health Advocate Magazine,  1996). Young children are particularly susceptible to ETS. Since many customers and  employees bring their children to businesses it is important to understand the potential 
health impact of second hand smoke exposure on children. Health problems associated  with second hand smoke include: 
blue shadow box Lung cancer
blue shadow box Higher death rates from cardiovascular disease in non-smokers
blue shadow box Acute symptoms from the irritant effect, particularly eye irritation, among allergic 
persons
blue shadow box Headaches
blue shadow box Irritation of the eye, nose and throat
blue shadow box Dizziness or nausea in nonsmokers 
blue shadow box 150,000-300,000 lower respiratory infections in children
blue shadow box 200,000-1,000,000 asthma attacks in children
blue shadow box 8,000-26,000 new cases of asthma in children
blue shadow box Respiratory symptoms of irritation in children
blue shadow box Significantly reduced lung function in children
  Source:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993, 1997; Canadian Health Network
 

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Economic Impact of SHS

While the major focus on the effects of tobacco has been on the health impact, environmental tobacco smoke also has been associated with a number of economic impacts on businesses. While some are direct, there are a number of impacts that are indirect. Poor employee morale, for example, can cause decreases in productivity.   Economic impacts include:     
blue shadow box Absenteeism at greater rates than non or ex-smoking employees
blue shadow box Higher health insurance and life insurance costs and claims
blue shadow box Workers compensation payments
blue shadow box Accidents and fires
blue shadow box Property damage
blue shadow box Smoke pollution resulting in increased cleaning and maintenance costs
blue shadow box Illness and discomfort in non-smokers exposed to passive smoke
blue shadow box Lost productivity
blue shadow box Recruitment and retraining costs for replacement employees
blue shadow box Employee morale problems
blue shadow box Corporate image problems- 85 % of Utahns do not smoke 
  Source: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health,  1996; BRFSS, 1999.

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