Purpose of review: Second-hand smoke (SHS) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality on a global scale. Governments have increasingly sought to mitigate the effects of SHS by introducing legislation that restricts tobacco consumption in public places. There is emerging evidence that such legislation leads to direct and indirect health benefits.
Recent findings: Exposure to SHS is now shown to be associated with development of cardiovascular disease, and poorer health outcomes in patients with established chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Childhood (including in-utero) exposure to SHS has recently been linked with increased risk of cleft palate, demonstrable signs of atherosclerosis, and the development of emphysema and lung cancer in adulthood. Comprehensive bans on smoking in public lead to a reduction in overall exposure to SHS for both adults and children and have also been shown to immediately attenuate the incidence of myocardial infarction and paediatric hospital attendances with acute asthma.
Summary: Banning smoking in public places is an effective tool for reducing tobacco-related morbidity across a multiplicity of diseases. Countries that have not already done so should introduce legislation to enforce effective legislation that prohibits smoking in public places.