Second-Hand Smoke

No smoking signWhat is Second-Hand Smoke?

Second-hand smoke is a combination of the smoke that comes off the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke that is exhaled by smokers.

It contains over 7000 chemicals including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride, and arsenic. Hundreds of them are toxic and 70 of them cause cancer. There is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure. The more second-hand smoke one is exposed to over time, the greater the risk to one’s health.  This evidence has led to the development of Laws and Regulations to protect the public from second-hand smoke exposure in a variety of settings. To learn more, visit the smoke-free spaces section of our website or visit to learn more about the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

From 2003-2014, non-smokers’ exposure to second-hand smoke at home slowly declined (CCHS, 2014). However, in 2014, 8% of youth between the ages of 12-18 were still exposed to second-hand smoke at home, while 5% of youth aged 12-15 were exposed to second-hand smoke everyday or almost every day in a vehicle. Under the Smoke-free Ontario Act, it is illegal to smoke inside a vehicle while a child under the age of 16 is present. Fines can be issued by police officers to those who are found violating this law.

Poster of second hand smoke informationHeather Crowe was a waitress who worked in restaurants when smoking was still permitted inside. After several years, she was diagnosed with lung cancer caused by exposure to second-hand smoke. In 2006, ironically the same year that the Smoke-free Ontario Act came into effect, Heather Crowe passed away. Her legacy remains and this photo a reminder to all why it is so important to have smoke-free workplaces today.


Additional Links

Second Hand Smoke (Canadian Cancer Society)