Public Health Background

The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health states that "environmental tobacco smoke", also called second-hand smoke, contains chemicals that irritate the lining of the lung and other tissues, carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds), mutagens (substances that promote genetic changes in the cell), and developmental toxicants (substances that interfere with normal cell development). Tobacco smoke is known to contain at least 60 carcinogens and six developmental toxins. Health Effects of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) (or "Second-Hand Smoke"):

  • Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) can cause lung cancer in adult nonsmokers.  1 
  • ETS is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease among nonsmokers.  1 
  • ETS causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually among adult nonsmokers.  1 
  • ETS causes coronary heart disease and death in nonsmokers. ETS accounts for as many as 62,000 deaths from coronary heart disease annually in the United States.  2
  • ETS causes respiratory problems in children, such as greater number and severity of asthma attacks and lower respiratory tract infections.  1
  • ETS exposure increases children's risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and middle ear infections as well.  1
  • Each year ETS causes 150,000-300,000 lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, in children.  1

Nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke absorb nicotine and other compounds just as smokers do.

In 1986, two landmark reports were published on the association between second-hand smoke exposure and adverse health effects in non-smokers. One report was published by the U.S. Surgeon General; the other by the National Academy of Sciences. Both reports concluded that:  2, 3

  • Second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer in healthy adult non-smokers;   
  • Children of parents who smoke have more respiratory symptoms and acute lower respiratory tract infections, as well as evidence of reduced lung function, than do children of non-smoking parents; and   
  • Separating smokers and non-smokers within the same air space may reduce, but does not eliminate, a non-smoker's exposure to second-hand smoke.   
  • Since 1986, many federal, state and local laws have been enacted which attempt to reduce or eliminate the involuntary exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke.   
  • On the basis of the known health effects of second-hand smoke, the Anchorage Assembly wrote and passed this ordinance in June of 2000.


  1. Environmental Protection Agency. Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders. Washington: Environmental Protection Agency, office of Research and Development, Office of Air and Radiation, 1992. Publication No. EPA/600/5-90/006F.    
  2. National Academy of Science / National Research Council. Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Measuring Exposures and Assessing Health Effects (POD #318); National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 1986.    
  3. US Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General (stock number 017-001-00458-8); U.S. Government Printing Office, Pittsburgh, PA. 1986.