CBC Digital Archives

A new danger: second-hand smoke

Not too long ago, Canadians could smoke virtually anywhere they pleased: at work, in theatres, restaurants and even hospitals. Smoking rates peaked in the early 1960s, when nearly half of all adults puffed away. But as evidence of the health hazards of cigarettes piled up, high taxes, graphic warnings and restrictions on smoking have helped make smoking unacceptable. CBC Archives traces the decline of smoking in Canada.

Call it second-hand, passive, involuntary or, as in this CBC-TV clip, "sidestream" smoke. But no matter its name, tobacco smoke - exhaled by smokers or curling off the end of a lit cigarette - affects everyone. Studies show that non-smokers inhale between seven and 15 per cent of the chemicals from a cigarette smoked in the same room. And ventilation systems in office buildings just aren't up to the task of filtering out smoke. 
• The issue of second-hand smoke was first reported by the U.S. surgeon general in 1972. He noted that levels of the poisonous gas carbon monoxide in a room full of smoke often exceeded federal limits on air pollution.

• Studies on the effects of second-hand smoke began in the early 1980s. Some found that non-smoking wives of smokers showed higher rates of lung cancer.

• A 1984 U.S. study estimated that the average non-smoking American took in the equivalent of 1.43 milligrams of tar each day - equivalent to one or two ultra-low-tar cigarettes.

• The study found that between 500 and 5,000 non-smokers died each year from exposure to second-hand smoke.

• The surgeon general agreed in 1986 with an entire report on second-hand smoke (often called environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS). His report said: "involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy non-smokers."

• According to Health Canada in 2005, over 300 non-smoking Canadians will die each year of lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke. Another 700 will die of coronary heart disease attributable to second-hand smoke.

• The United States Environmental Protection Agency has designated second-hand smoke a class "A" carcinogen. That puts it among the most deadly cancer-causing substances, for which there is no safe level of exposure.

• Children exposed to smoke in the home have higher levels of asthma. Incidences of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) are also higher in homes where parents smoke.

• In the 1970s, evidence began to emerge about the effects of smoking during pregnancy. On average, women who smoked while pregnant delivered smaller-than-average babies. The chances of premature birth and stillbirth were also elevated.

• According to a 1978 Finnish study, children aged five and under whose mothers smoked were 70 per cent more likely to have required hospitalization for respiratory problems.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: March 4, 1985
Guest(s): Neil Collishaw, John Kirkbride, Jacques Larivière, Donald Wigle
Host: Jerry Thompson
Duration: 5:04

Last updated: September 17, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Butting Out: The Slow Death of Smoking in Can...

Not too long ago, Canadians could smoke virtually anywhere they pleased: at work, in theatres,...

Butting Out: extra smoking clips

Not too long ago, Canadians could smoke virtually anywhere they pleased: at work, in theatres,...

1989: Smoking banned on domestic flights

A new law to ban smoking on flights makes airlines furious while supporters predict healthier ...

The next non-smoking frontier: outdoors

Provincial and federal governments consider restricting smoking on patios and outside entrance...

B.C. sues tobacco companies

British Columbia tries to recover health-care dollars by going after cigarette manufacturers.

No smokes for Demi and Sly

A new non-smoking bylaw in Toronto means celebrities can't enjoy cigarettes in the city's new ...