Secondhand smoke is smoke exhaled by another person who's smoking. It also comes from the lit end of tobacco products, like cigarettes and cigars. Secondhand smoke is a dangerous mixture of over 7,000 chemicals, including 70 that cause cancer. Secondhand smoke causes early death and disease in both children and adults who do not smoke. It increases the risk for heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

It's estimated that secondhand smoke caused nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths for nonsmokers each year between 2005 and 2009. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.

Health Effects

  • Almost 3 million children in the United States under the age of 6 years old breathe secondhand smoke at home at least 4 days per week.
  • Breathing in secondhand smoke at home or at work increases a person’s chances of getting lung cancer by 20-30 percent.
  • More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure is higher among children ages 3-11 years old, blacks, people living below the poverty level, and those who rent housing.

Children are vulnerable to the risks of secondhand smoke because they're still growing.

Children whose parent or guardian smokes in the home or vehicle may be at increased risk for disease and illness. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for infants.

Protect Your Loved Ones

When you or your family members are around someone who smokes, you are all inhaling harmful chemicals that can cause smoking-related illnesses and diseases. The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to completely avoid secondhand smoke.

What you can do:

  • If you or someone you know smokes, call Quitline Iowa at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free access to a Quit Coach to help you quit tobacco use.
  • Make your home and vehicle 100% smoke-free. Air filters, ventilation systems and cracked windows do not entirely eliminate secondhand smoke.
  • Teach your children to stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • If you live in multi-unit housing, choose a smoke-free building. Smoke can travel through ventilation systems, doors, windows, and cracks in the walls. Ventilation systems and air filters cannot completely eliminate secondhand smoke.

Protecting People From Secondhand Smoke

Many children and families in Iowa are still exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, cars, and parks. Eliminating smoking indoors is the only way to protect people from secondhand smoke.

Community Policies

Local Iowa communities are bringing cleaner, safer air to residents by working with local property managers and to implement smoke-free housing policies.

Smoke-Free Homes

Smoke Free Homes, a program of the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, provides smoke free rental property listings on the Smoke Free Homes Registry free as a public service (there are currently over 1,500 listings). The program works to eliminate second and thirdhand smoke exposure for renters, to help create a safer and healthier living environment. By providing model policies, free signage, cessation materials, and technical assistance, our goal is to increase smoke free housing opportunities for all Iowans.

Stop Smoking Indoors

Parents can help protect their families from secondhand smoke by eliminating smoking in their home and car, asking people not to smoke around their family and children, or by quitting tobacco altogether. Learn more about Quitting Tobacco.

Iowa Smokefree Air Act

In 2008, Iowa lawmakers passed legislation to protect most Iowans from Secondhand Smoke. The Smokefree Air Act prohibits smoking in almost all public places and enclosed areas within places of employment, as well as some outdoor areas.

The law applies to: restaurants, bars, outdoor entertainment events, and amphitheaters. It also covers places of employment such as office buildings, health care facilities, and child care facilities. Smoking is allowed on the gaming floor of a licensed casino, as well as in designated hotel and motel rooms.