Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It kills more Americans each year than murder, drugs and AIDS combined. In June 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General confirmed that secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and non-smoking adults. Numerous scientific studies conducted by reputable health agencies also confirm the hazardous health effects of secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is the toxic waste from tobacco combustion: a combination of the smoke exhaled by smokers and the smoke that comes off the burning end of cigarettes, pipes and cigars. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals, with more than 250 of those chemicals known to cause cancer.
Secondhand smoke can cause negative health consequences after just five minutes of exposure. Eight hours of secondhand smoke exposure is the equivalent of smoking 16 cigarettes. Restaurant and bar workers are exposed to levels of secondhand smoke two to six times higher than workers in office workplaces. Even after adjusting for active smoking, alcohol intake and socioeconomic status, California waitresses had death rates from lung cancer, heart disease and overall mortality that were higher than those for all other female workers. Servers have the greatest risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease compared to other occupations.