Cigarette smoke causes cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung cancer and sudden infant death syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secondhand smoke can also cause other serious health problems in children, such as increased chance of asthma attacks, respiratory infections and ear infections.
Secondhand smoke immediately affects the blood and blood vessels, which can prevent the vascular system, blood and heart from functioning properly, notes the CDC. Even minimal exposure to cigarette smoke causes blood platelets to stick together more easily and can damage blood vessel linings. Due to these changes, people exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20 to 30 percent increased chance of having a stroke. They also boost their risk of heart disease by 25 to 30 percent.
Nonsmokers who expose themselves to cigarette smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent, states the CDC. Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,300 annual lung cancer deaths in the United States.
Secondhand smoke boosts the chance of an infant dying from sudden infant death syndrome, explains the CDC. Women who smoke while pregnant also increase the chance that their children could develop sudden infant death syndrome. As children grow, secondhand smoke exposure also increases their chances of developing bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as coughing and wheezing. Cigarette smoke also boosts the chance of developing severe asthma or having ear infection complications as a child.