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Vital Signs: Nonsmokers' Exposure to Secondhand Smoke—United States, 1999–2008

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September 10, 2010 / Vol. 59 / No. 35

MMWR Introduction

Secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slowed lung growth in children. No risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure exists. Levels of secondhand smoke exposure among U.S. nonsmokers have fallen substantially over the past 20 years. However, millions of nonsmokers remain exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, workplaces, public places, and vehicles.

To assess recent trends in U.S. nonsmokers' secondhand smoke exposure, this report examined data from CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 1999–2008. During 2007–2008, approximately 88 million nonsmokers in the United States were exposed to secondhand smoke. The percentage of the nonsmoking population exposed to secondhand smoke dropped significantly from 52.5% in 1999–2000 to 40.1% in 2007–2008.

Continued efforts to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in all settings are needed to ensure that all nonsmokers are protected from this serious health hazard. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in indoor spaces, including workplaces, public places (e.g., restaurants and bars), and private places (e.g., homes and vehicles) through smoke-free laws and policies and through decreased smoking prevalence.