First Time User? Enroll now.
*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Additional COVID-19 resources.
Please be aware that mask-wearing is required at all UNC Health facilities.
Home > Health Library > Secondhand smoke
Secondhand smoke is tobacco smoke that affects a nonsmoker. Secondhand smoke can come directly from a cigarette or other lit tobacco; it may also be exhaled by a person smoking.
Secondhand smoke is sometimes referred to as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), involuntary smoking, or passive smoking.
Secondhand smoke contains the same cancer-causing and lung-damaging chemicals that affect smokers. Repeated exposure to secondhand smoke over many years can cause damage to a nonsmoker's lungs that is similar to that of a smoker's.
Secondhand smoke is the most important risk factor for cancer among nonsmokers, far greater than other known cancer-causing substances. Secondhand smoke is most harmful to:
Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.