Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Secondhand Smoke?

By Chris Woolston, M.S.

Smoking is a dangerous habit -- and not just for people who light up. Secondhand smoke contains many of the same irritants, toxins, and cancer-causing compounds that plague smokers. If you spend any time in smoke-filled bars, restaurants, homes, or offices, you should know the facts about this health hazard. Take this short quiz to test your secondhand smoke IQ.

1. According to the best current estimates, roughly how many Americans die from secondhand smoke each year?

a. 1,000

b. 5,000

c. Around 40,000

d. 100,000

2. Just 30 minutes in a smoke-filled room can be hard on your heart.

True

False

3. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are at high risk for which of the following illnesses?

a. Ear infections

b. Allergies

c. Pneumonia

d. Asthma

e. All of the above

4. Smoke from cigars or pipes is generally much safer than smoke from cigarettes.

True

False

Answers

1. According to the best current estimates, roughly how many Americans die from secondhand smoke each year?

The correct answer is: c. Around 40,000.

After smoking and alcohol, secondhand smoke is the largest cause of preventable deaths in the United States. It kills an estimated 42,000 people a year, including 900 babies according to UCSF researchers.

2. Just 30 minutes in a smoke-filled room can be hard on your heart.

The correct answer is: True

A study of healthy young men published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that breathing secondhand smoke for just 30 minutes caused measurable damage to the arteries. The researchers speculated that the damage could set the stage for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The conclusion: Even a little secondhand smoke is too much.

3. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are at high risk for which of the following illnesses?

The correct answer is: e. All of the above

Young bodies should never have to cope with cigarette smoke. Children whose parents smoke are 20 percent to 30 percent more likely to have asthma. And according to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke contributes to 150,000 to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in babies and toddlers every year. Up to 15,000 of these young victims have to be hospitalized. If you have children in your house, you have every incentive to shun smoking.

4. Smoke from cigars or pipes is generally much safer than smoke from cigarettes.

The correct answer is: False

Tobacco smoke -- whether it comes from a cigarette, pipe, or cigar -- contains a toxic blend of more than 4,000 chemicals. In fact, smoke from cigars actually contains more tar and other poisons than smoke from cigarettes. In short, there's no such thing as safe secondhand smoke.

References

Secondhand smoke kills 42,000 non-smokers a year in the U.S.LiveScience.

Centers for Disease Control. Secondhand Smoke. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/ets.htm

Centers for Disease Control. Cigarette Smoking-Related Mortality. http://www.cdc.gov/

American Lung Association. Secondhand Smoke Fact Sheet. http://www.lungusa.org/

Environmental Tobacco Smoke. Environmental Protection Agency. www.epa.gov

Glantz, S.A. and W.W. Parmley. Even a little secondhand smoke is dangerous. Journal of the American Medical Association 286(4): 462-463.

Otsuka, R. et al. Acute effects of passive smoking on the coronary circulation in healthy young adults. Journal of the American Medical Association 286(4): 436-441.

Bennet, W.P. et al. Environmental tobacco smoke, genetic susceptibility, and risk of lung cancer in never-smoking women. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 91(23)

National Cancer Institute. NCI Health Information Tip Sheet for Writers: Secondhand Smoke. January 2005. http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/tip-sheet-secondhand-smoke

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