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What is passive smoking? Is secondhand smoke harmful?

Learn what passive smoking is and the dangers of secondhand smoke. Find out if switching to heated tobacco can minimize the impact.

What is passive smoking/secondhand smoke? Is secondhand smoke harmful?

Passive smoking occurs when someone who is not smoking breathes in tobacco smoke, such as cigarette smoke. It is also known as secondhand smoke.

Passive smoking is the act of unintentionally inhaling nearby sources of tobacco smoke. This can happen if one is standing too close to a smoker who is smoking a cigarette, or even if one is too close to the lit end of a cigarette. Once cigarette smoke is in the air, it has the potential to be inhaled by those in its vicinity.

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is created by a smoker when they are smoking a cigarette, or the smoke that is emitted from the lit end of a cigarette. This is the smoke that has the potential to be “passively smoked” by anyone who is close to it.

  • Public health authorities have concluded that secondhand smoke from burning tobacco causes diseases, including lung cancer and heart disease, in nonsmoking adults, as well as conditions in children such as asthma, respiratory infections, cough, wheezing, otitis media (middle ear infection), and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • In addition, public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke can exacerbate adult asthma and cause eye, throat, and nasal irritation.
  • People should be informed about these conclusions and guided by them in deciding whether to be in places where secondhand smoke is present.
  • Smokers should not smoke around children or pregnant women.

Are passive smoking and secondhand smoke the same?

Yes, in general both passive smoking and secondhand smoke refer to the same phenomenon.

How to create a smoke-free environment?

If you are an adult smoker, here are some tips on how to create a smoke-free environment.

1. Quit smoking entirely. The best way to eliminate secondhand smoke is to quit smoking. This is of course the best course of action for any smoker. Smokers should not smoke around children or pregnant women.

2. Make the house smoke-free. It’s not enough to just open a window or door, or smoke in another room of the house. Smoke can linger in the air after you’ve had a cigarette. People should be guided by public health authorities’ conclusions in deciding whether to be in places where secondhand smoke is present or, if they are smokers, when and where to smoke around others.

3. Make the vehicle smoke-free. Similar to smoking in the house, the car is another enclosed space best left smoke-free. Having the windows down in a car will not make a big difference, as smoke can cling to the car seats and linger in the air. People should be guided by public health authorities’ conclusions in deciding whether to be in places where secondhand smoke is present or, if they are smokers, when and where to smoke around others.

4. Respect smoke-free zones. Be aware before you light up a cigarette and observe the area around you carefully - especially if you are traveling and unfamiliar with local laws and customs.

5. Switch to smoke-free alternatives. Tobacco heating devices do not produce smoke. Instead they produce aerosol which contains significantly lower levels of harmful substances. Studies have shown that due to the absence of combustion and smoke, tobacco heating devices do not have negative impact on indoor air quality.1 This means that the few compounds we nevertheless detected were found at very low concentrations and far below the maximum exposure levels defined in existing air quality guidelines.

Is heated tobacco vapor harmful to non-smokers?

The best decision any smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether. For adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke or use nicotine products, there are many smoke-free alternatives on the market today, and a heated tobacco product is one option that is available. Tobacco heating products do not produce smoke as they do not burn tobacco, but rather, they heat tobacco to create a vapor.

With that in mind, many wonder if heated tobacco products produce secondhand smoke. Tobacco heating products do not burn tobacco or generate tobacco smoke and therefore have the potential to emit significantly fewer and lower levels of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals compared to cigarette smoke. The lack of combustion and the reduction in formation of harmful chemicals should be substantiated on a product-by-product basis. Importantly, this does not mean that smoke-free products including heated tobacco products are risk free. Without question, the best decision any smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether.



1Source: PMI study conducted under ISO standards simulating real-world scenarios and based on threshold limits established by existing air quality guidelines.

This product is not risk free and provides nicotine, which is addictive. Only for use by adults.