Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke

Are you curious about the health risks of secondhand smoke?

If so, this post will answer your concerns.

What you’ll find below is an outline of the top risk factors of secondhand smoke exposure as well as a perfect solution for protecting yourself against it.

Defining Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a combination of two things:

  • Sidestream smoke that comes directly from a burning tobacco product
  • Mainstream smoke that comes from the person who’s smoking and exhaling

As you can see, even being around a smoker who’s not actively puffing on a cigarette or cigar can still put you at risk for secondhand smoke exposure.

Cigarettes themselves contain more than 7,000 different chemicals and compounds, and 250 of them are toxic or cause cancer.

Additionally, secondhand smoke particles can stay in the air for up to four hours after a person initially smokes and breathing them in can cause a number of negative health effects.

Air Purifiers Help Reduce Secondhand Smoke

We’ll get into the exact health risks of secondhand smoke next, but we first wanted to make you aware that air purifiers are a good solution for lowering your exposure.

Air purifiers draw surrounding air into itself and trap smoke particles in a series of filters. Fresh air is then pushed back out into the room.

Check out our air purifiers for second hand smoke list to find out more about how they work and to see what styles are available to keep the air you breathe clean.

You may be surprised at how well these machines can work to keep you healthy even from other airborne pollutants.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure Time and Associated Health Risks

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for secondhand smoke to start causing problems.

In fact, it starts only a few minutes after the initial exposure and it gets worse as time progresses.

Exposure time and health risks include, but are not limited to:

  • 5 Minutes – Exposure to secondhand smoke for just five minutes stiffens your aorta as much as lighting up and smoking an actual cigarette.
  • 20 to 30 Minutes – Slightly prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke can cause your blood to clot in excess. It also boosts the number of fat deposits found in your blood vessels and this can increase your risk of a cardiovascular event like a stroke or heart attack.
  • 120 Minutes – In just two hours, secondhand smoke exposure increases your chances of developing an irregular heartbeat that can cause a fatal heart attack or cardiac event by as much as 20%.

If you have constant and prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, the health risks are even greater because you’re inhaling higher amounts of toxic chemicals and compounds.

The health implications of a long term secondhand smoke exposure include:

Biggest Risks of Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Along with an elevated risk of developing some diseases, secondhand smoke exposure also has other health risks associated with it.

Cardiovascular Disease

We touched briefly on how you have an increased risk of developing issues with your cardiovascular system above, but it goes much deeper.

Each year, an estimated 34,000 people die prematurely in the United States due to secondhand smoke. It also causes roughly 8,000 death from having a stroke each year in the United States alone.

Secondhand smoke interferes with your normal vascular system, including blood flow and how your heart functions.


Sadly, even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage cells in ways that set the process of cancer development in motion.

Unfortunately, non-smokers inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals and compounds as smokers do.

Low Birth Weights

Smoking while you’re pregnant or being around someone who smokes increases your chances of having babies with low birth weights.

Smoke can interfere with the nutrient levels your child gets during gestation and you can end up with a premature, sick, or underweight baby when they’re born.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants who are healthy otherwise.

Infants who have exposure to secondhand smoke have a 21% higher chance of dying from SIDS.

This is due to the fact that the chemicals and toxins in secondhand smoke can interfere with a baby’s normal breathing patterns.

Increased Sickness Instances in Children

Secondhand smoke can also wreak havoc on children who have constant or passing exposure to it.

Studies show that children who have someone in the house that smokes tend to get sick more often with respiratory issues and ear infections.

One survey showed that children who have three or more ear infections in one year are usually exposed to cigarette smoke.

This is due to the chemicals causing inflammation inside of the ear and respiratory tracts.

Children who have repeated ear infections are at risk for hearing loss, which can also delay speech development.

Cancer in Pets

Your pets are also prone to developing health issues if they breathe in secondhand smoke.

One study linked secondhand smoke and an increased risk of mouth cancer in cats due to the licking of contaminants off of fur.

Other research linked dog skin conditions and nose cancer to living in a home where someone smoked.


As you learned, the health risks of secondhand smoke vary greatly and can impact you in as little as five minutes of exposure.

Obviously, the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is to eliminate your contact with secondhand smoke, but for some people this is not an option due to where they live or work.

The next best thing you can do is invest in an air purifier. Air purifiers filter harmful smoke particles out of the air and to make it clean to breathe.

Check out our air purifiers for second hand smoke list to find out exactly how they work for your benefit.

And to see what types and styles are available. Air purifiers are excellent machines to have in any home or office if staying healthy is your top concern.