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Information on Secondhand Smoke

The purpose of the Smoke-free Illinois Act is to protect the health of Illinois residents, workers and visitors from the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. It is estimated that only 15 percent of cigarette smoke is inhaled by the smoker. The remaining 85 percent lingers in the air for others to breathe.

There are 4,000 chemical compounds in secondhand smoke, 200 are poisons and at least 40 cause cancer.1 Some of the chemicals found in secondhand smoke include: hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical weapons), carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust), butane (used in lighter fluid), ammonia (used in household cleaners), toluene (found in paint thinners), arsenic (used in pesticides), lead (formerly found in paint), chromium (used to make steel) and cadmium (used to make batteries).²

According to the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can cause immediate harm. The only way to protect non-smokers from the dangerous chemicals in secondhand smoke is to eliminate smoking indoors. Smoke-free indoor environments are proven, simple approaches that prevent exposure to and harm caused by secondhand smoke. Ventilation systems cannot completely eliminate secondhand smoke exposure and only smoke-free environments provide full protection. This report is available on-line at²

The majority of Illinois citizens support the right to breathe clean indoor air. The 2005 Illinois Adult Tobacco Survey found that nearly three-fourths (72%) of adults believe smoking should not be allowed in work areas, while 73 percent support a law for smoke-free restaurants. According to the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 79.5 percent of Illinoisans do not smoke. Based on the experiences of other states with smoke-free laws the compliance rates are high.³

According to the 2005 Illinois Adult Tobacco Survey, eight in 10 adults (80.1%) believe a ban on smoking in restaurants would not make a difference in how often they dine out. More than one in 10 (12.6%) would dine out more often if there were a total ban on smoking in restaurants.³

Studies of cities and states with smoke-free work place laws that include bars and restaurants provide strong evidence the law will have a neutral or even a positive impact on the business. The California Smoke-free Workplace Act has been in effect since 1998 and taxable annual sales for bars and restaurants show a steady increase. In 1998, sales were up more than 5 percent; in 1999, sales were up more than 8 percent; and in 2000, sales were up more than 9 percent. Additional studies of smoke-free workplaces, including restaurants and bars, show profits increase with the increased productivity of their employees and a decrease in maintenance costs.³


1 American Lung Association
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006.) The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
3 Adult Tobacco Survey Report 2005. Illinois Department of Public Health


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