The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that breathing even a little secondhand smoke poses a risk to your health. Research indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and only 100% smoke-free environments adequately protect from dangers of second-hand smoke.

What is second-hand smoke?

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, Secondhand smoke—also known as environmental tobacco smoke—is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes—

  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip
  • Smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking
  • At least 250 toxic chemicals, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.

Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and workplaces. Secondhand smoke exposure also continues to occur in public places such as restaurants and bars and in private vehicles.

Secondhand smoke has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Inhaling secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke according to the National Cancer Institute.

Secondhand smoke causes disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children and exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on a person’s heart and blood vessels. Children are also vulnerable and are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, lung diseases, and asthma.

How to create a smoke-free environment?

In order to create 100% smoke free environments to interact in, we need to work together to change policy to create smoke-free campuses, tobacco free parks, smoke-free homes and cars.

An example policy is one from the Cook County Health and Hospital System which recently passed policy to make all Hospital property and campuses 100% smoke free.

In addition Cook County has laws to protect the health of the residents of Suburban Cook County such as the Clean Indoor Air Act and the SFIA Act.

Clean Indoor Air Law

On March 15, 2006 the Cook County Commissioners passed the Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, 06-O-12, that prohibits smoking in all public places in Cook County and guarantees the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air which shall have the priority over the desire to smoke.

The ordinance, the ordinance took effect on March 15, 2007, and prohibits smoking in all enclosed public places and places of employment within the County of Cook.

  • Public places include:
  • Childcare, adult daycare, health care facilities, or home-based businesses of any kind open to the public;
  • Restroom, lobbies, reception areas, hallways, and other enclosed common-use areas;
  • Recreational areas including enclosed sports arenas, stadiums, swimming pools, ice and roller rinks, arcades and bowling alleys.
  • Smoking is prohibited within15 feet of any entrance;
  • Every place of employment where smoking is prohibited by this Ordinance shall have posted, at every entrance, a conspicuous sign clearly stating that smoking is prohibited;
  • The operator or manager shall remove all ashtrays and other smoking paraphernalia intended for use where smoking is prohibited.

The Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance is still enforced in the unincorporated areas of suburban Cook County.

Smoke-free Illinois Act

In July 2007, the Governor signed the Smoke-free Illinois Act into law, making Illinois the 22nd state to be smoke-free. The Act, which took effect on January 1, 2008, authorizes the Cook County Department of Public Health to enforce this Act within its jurisdiction. The Smoke-free Illinois Act requires that public places and places of employment must be completely smoke-free inside and within 15 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Public places and buildings, offices, elevators, restrooms, theatres, museums, libraries, educational institutions, schools, commercial establishments, enclosed shopping centers and retail stores
  • Restaurants, bars, taverns and gaming facilities
  • Lobbies, reception areas, hallways, meeting rooms, waiting rooms, break rooms and other common-use areas
  • Concert halls, auditoriums, enclosed or partially enclosed sports arenas, bowling alleys, skating rinks, convention facilities, polling places and private clubs
  • Hospitals, health care facilities, health care clinics, child care, adult care or other similar social service care
  • No less than 75 percent of hotel or motel sleeping quarters rented to guests
  • Public conveyances, government-owned vehicles and vehicles open to the public