Number of Americans Exposed to Secondhand Smoke Declines, but it’s still Blamed for more than 40,000 Deaths a Year

Friday, February 06, 2015
(photo: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Getty Images)

Exposure to secondhand smoke has declined significantly, but more than 40,000 people still die every year in the United States from others’ smoking habits.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the share of non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke declined from 52.5% during 1999–2000 to 25.3% during 2011–2012. The drop was attributed to local ordinances and laws banning smoking in public places. Twenty-six states and about 700 cities have embraced such prohibitions.


It’s a similar situation in private homes. In 1993, 43% of individuals reported banning smoking in their houses and apartments. That rate climbed to 83% by 2011.


The CDC reported that secondhand smoke caused more than 40,000 fatalities annually from 2005 to 2009. Of these deaths, 34,000 were heart-related and 7,300 were from lung cancer.


Exposure to secondhand smoke dropped overall, but children and minorities are disproportionally affected by it. The CDC reported that during 2011–2012, 40.6% of children aged 3 to 11 years; 46.8% of non-Hispanic blacks; 43.2% of those living below the poverty level (43.2%); and 36.8% of those living in rental housing were exposed to second-hand smoke. African-American children get the most exposure: 67.9% of non-Hispanic blacks ages 3 to 11 were exposed to second-hand smoke, compared with 37.2% of non-Hispanic whites and 29.9% of Mexican Americans.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Vital Signs: Disparities in Nonsmokers’ Exposure to Secondhand Smoke — United States, 1999–2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (abstract)

Secondhand Smoke Exposure Drops, CDC Reports (by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)

Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Surgeon General Report Accuses Cigarette Smoking of Causing Diabetes, Arthritis and Erectile Dysfunction (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

San Rafael Ban on Smoking in Multi-Family Housing Takes Effect (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Tobacco Industry Objects to Having to Admit it Lied about Dangers of Smoking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


anonamouse 1 year ago
Interesting. Looks like the CDC has caught the same bug that climate scientist Michael Mann suffered from: the one that causes scientists to massage the data to make a point. ("We gotta scare the public into acting on climate change," is a close paraphrase of his explanation for "adjusting" the data to "hide the decline" showing earlier, warmer periods during human history.) But I digress. Last year, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of a large cohort study that found NO LINK between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. None. Presumably the experts at CDC are aware of this study. Presumably, they are ignoring it, for polemical purposes. Well, because smoking is evil.

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