Respiratory health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke

Rev Environ Health. 1996 Jul-Sep;11(3):89-100. doi: 10.1515/reveh.1996.11.3.89.


During the last 25 years, several hundred papers have been published on the respiratory health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Various independent assessments have concluded that ETS causes lung cancer in adult nonsmokers and increases the risk of various noncancer effects, principally in children. The effects on children include pneumonia, bronchitis and bronchiolitis in young children; chronic middle ear effusion; increased frequency and severity of attacks among asthmatics; possible induction of asthma in previously asymptomatic individuals; small reductions in lung function; and symptoms of upper respiratory tract irritation. In nonsmoking adults, ETS exposure is associated with irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and with wheezing, symptoms of bronchitis, shortness of breath, and decreased lung function. The results of recent studies not only confirm and strengthen the above findings but also provide strong suggestive evidence that ETS causes sinonasal cancer and is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome. To mitigate such a preventable environmental health impact, public health measures to reduce involuntary ETS exposure are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Public Health Administration
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution