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Secondhand Smoke

Did you know that secondhand smoke is worse for you than inhaling smoke directly from a lit cigarette1? The same chemicals are found in secondhand smoke -- such as tar, carbon monoxide, and benzene -- but in higher quantities1. About 50 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer1. Because of the known health risks of secondhand smoke, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act was enacted to protect everyone, including both smokers and non-smokers, from secondhand smoke. These laws extend into the workplace, protecting all workers from secondhand smoke whether inside a building or inside a workplace vehicle.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Timiskaming 

According to the Canadian Community Health Survey by Statistics Canada, people in Timiskaming are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke when compared to Ontario2. Also note that since the Smoke-Free Ontario Act was put in effect in 2006, there should be no secondhand smoke exposure in public places.


Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
Ontario (2005) Timiskaming (2005)
In the home 7.3 % 11.4 %
In vehicles 7.8 % 8.8 %
In public places 13.0 % 19.3 %

*Note that the numbers above reflects the percent of the non-smoking population aged 12 and over who reported being exposed on most days in the past month.

Secondhand smoke in motor vehicles can be up to 27 times greater than in a smoker’s home.

And, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking or holding lit tobacco in motor vehicles where children under the age of 16 are present. Those who do could be subject to a $250 fine.

Health Risks for Adults 

Secondhand smoke causes the following diseases in adults :

  • Heart disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Nasal sinus cancer

Secondhand smoke has been linked to:

  • Stroke
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Miscarriages
Health Risks for Children

Secondhand smoke hurts everyone, but is especially dangerous to children due to both their growing and developing lungs and the quickness of their breathing compared with adults. In addition, children’s immune systems are not as developed and cannot protect them as well as an adult’s. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have many more health-related problems than children who remain smoke-free. Secondhand smoke causes the following diseases in children:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (more than 3 times as many infants die from secondhand smoke exposure than from child abuse or homicide1)
  • Bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory tract infections
  • Asthma
  • Middle ear disease
  • Respiratory difficulties

Secondhand smoke has been linked to:

  • Decreased lung function
  • Asthma induction
  • Increase of cystic fibrosis symptoms
  • Impacts on learning and behaviours

Interested in making your home and car smoke-free to protect your loved ones? Click on the guide below:Make your home and car smoke-free: A guide to protecting your family from second-hand smoke  

Heather Crowe

Heather Crowe created a very inspiring campaign to fight against secondhand smoke. She passed away in 2006 from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke without ever smoking a day in her life, but not before she spread the word far and wide about secondhand smoke, inspiring tobacco prevention advocates everywhere.  Her campaign focuses mainly on protecting all workers from secondhand smoke. She travelled across Canada promoting smoke-free environments to change municipal and provincial laws.

  • Click here to see her whole story.  


1 Health Canada, Accessed Oct 12, 2007

2 Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2000/2001, 2003 and 2005

To learn about the effects of secondhand smoke on children visit The Lung Association.

Interested in making your home and car smoke-free to protect your loved ones? Check out the guide "Make your Home and Car Smoke-free: A Guide to Protecting Your Family from Second-Hand Smoke" 


Updated: November 2, 2011