Protecting Our Right to Breathe Clean Air

The scientific evidence is clear: Secondhand smoke causes serious diseases and premature death among nonsmokers.

That's why a growing number of states, cities and countries are enacting laws that require all workplaces and public places to be smoke-free.

These laws protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.  

A Global Movement for Smoke-Free Air 

There has been enormous progress in the United States and around the world to enact strong smoke-free laws: 

  • In the U.S., 25 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus hundreds of cities and counties, have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws covering workplaces, restaurants, and bars. The states are: Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Another 5 states have enacted strong smoke-free laws covering restaurants and bars: Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Mexico and North Carolina.

  • At least 55 countries also have comprehensive smoke-free laws, protecting nearly 1.5 billion people worldwide.

A Toxic Soup of Chemicals and Carcinogens

Secondhand smoke is a poisonous mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General and public health agencies around the world have documented overwhelming evidence of the deadly effects of secondhand smoke:

  • Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and stroke in non-smoking adults. Among babies and children, it causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory and ear infections, and more severe asthma attacks.

  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can trigger harmful changes in the cardiovascular system that increases risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • In the U.S., secondhand smoke kills about 50,000 people each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people each year, according to a 2010 study by the World Health Organization.

Smoke-Free Laws: The Only Solution

Public health authorities have concluded that the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to require completely smoke-free workplaces and public places. Other approaches, such as air ventilation systems and separate smoking and non-smoking sections, do not eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Numerous scientific studies have also documented that smoke-free policies do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry (see our Fact Sheet: Smoke-Free Laws Do Not Harm Business at Restaurants and Bars).

It's time to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

 Last updated Aug. 17, 2017