Nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke consume toxic chemicals just as tobacco-users do. The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General Report concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and that taking in even small amounts causes lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory distress in both adults and children.
Establishing policies to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the key objectives of Healthy People 2020, a set of goals and objectives released every ten years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to guide national health promotion and disease prevention. While scientific research and policy efforts have primarily focused on indoor exposure, a growing body of evidence has found that exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors can also pose a significant risk.
Preventing secondhand smoke exposure is one initiative in a larger effort to reduce the effects of tobacco consumption. Combating smoking initiation and supporting smoking cessation are also important aspects of creating a smoke-free Delaware. A strong network of nonprofit and government organizations also offer cessation programs to help smokers quit, peer-mentoring to prevent youth from starting to smoke, and campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of smokeless, as well as traditional, tobacco products.
Exposure to second-hand smoke has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in adults. Racial and ethnic minorities, people with lower incomes, and workers in occupations such as construction and the service industries have been found to have higher levels of exposure to secondhand smoke. With the broad adoption of state and local indoor smoking bans over the last decade exposure levels are down for all populations, but disparities persist.