Secondhand smoke and nicotine exposure: a brief review

Addict Behav. 2007 Oct;32(10):1977-88. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2006.12.024. Epub 2007 Jan 8.


Secondhand tobacco smoke exposure is linked to a number of adverse health outcomes. This paper reviews published studies examining nicotine levels related to exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Twenty-two field studies measuring biological levels of nicotine associated with secondhand tobacco smoke exposure were evaluated. Positive associations between self-reported and/or objective measures of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure and concentrations of nicotine and/or biomarkers of nicotine in the body were frequently reported. Two studies indicated that nicotine exposure from secondhand tobacco smoke can engender plasma nicotine concentrations that are equivalent to levels produced by tobacco smoking and that are associated with nicotine-induced changes in behavior. Future research should examine whether nicotine exposure from secondhand tobacco smoke has functional effects on neurobiological and behavioral processes associated with tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / blood
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine