Roughly 126 million U.S. non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work, which puts them at a 20 to 30 percent higher risk for heart disease and lung cancer. On average, 50,000 people die each year because of secondhand smoke exposure, including 430 infants who die from sudden infant death syndrome, according to Carmona's report.
The report could greatly impact public policy on indoor smoking, and could prove to be a useful tool in enforcing nationwide smoking bans. Stanton Glantz, director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, says that since even slight exposure to secondhand smoke causes negative effects in non-smokers, the use of air filtration systems to "clean" indoor air is not effective. "The toxicity in smoke is so high, even if you get rid of 90 percent of the smoke, you still have more than would be considered acceptable," Glantz said. Air filtration has been Big Tobacco's remedy for addressing non-smokers' concerns over secondhand smoke.
Carmona's report comes 20 years after the surgeon general first decided that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and health disorders in non-smokers. Critics of conventional medicine disapprove of the length of time it has taken for doctors -- who in the past, regularly advertised cigarettes as "healthy" -- to condemn secondhand smoke.
Smoking-ban proponents hope Carmona's report will effectively end debate over the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure. "Based on the science I wouldn't allow anyone in my family to stand in a room with someone smoking," Carmona said.