Women Need Smokefree Protections

Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among nonsmokers can cause heart disease and lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.

You don’t have to smoke to be a victim of secondhand smoke.

With the passing of nonsmoker Dana Reeve (at 44) due to lung cancer, we are reminded that secondhand smoke kills and that women are uniquely endangered. Reeve was the beloved wife of actor Christopher Reeve and a renowned vocalist whose cancer is speculated to have been caused by exposure to secondhand smoke in the clubs in which she performed.

Exposure to secondhand smoke also varies by race and ethnicity. Over half of non-Hispanic Black women were exposed to secondhand smoke compared to about 30 percent of non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women. Nonsmoking Black women were also more likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to report living in a household with a smoker (10.2 versus 5.4 percent, respectively).

It is no coincidence that during great growth in the tobacco industry market, (between 1960 and 1990), deaths from lung cancer among women increased by more than 500%.  In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. women. During 2010–2014, almost 282,000 women (56,359 women each year) have died from lung cancer.