California Environmental Protection Agency

In 1997, the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) published a report titled Health Effects of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke. The report is a review of population-based studies, which found numerous negative health effects from exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Cal-EPA report concluded that secondhand smoke causes 53,000 deaths per year, including 38,000 heart disease deaths, 3,000 lung cancer deaths, and 12,000 other cancer deaths. Additionally, the report found secondhand smoke to cause middle ear infections, asthma and chronic respiratory symptoms in children, plus low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

In 1999, the Cal-EPA report was adopted by the National Cancer Institute as Monograph #10 in order to more widely distribute the report and its significant findings.

Secondhand Smoke Declared a Toxic Air Contaminant

On September 29, 2005 the Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the Cal-EPA posted a new report, "Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant - June 2005", which evaluated the health hazards of secondhand smoke and the level of outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke among California residents. The report confirmed and expanded the science on the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. New findings included: a causal link between secondhand smoke exposure and pre-term delivery; asthma induction in adults; breast cancer in younger, primarily premenopausal women; and altered vascular properties. The ARB issued a press release on the findings.

On January 26, 2006, the ARB unanimously adopted a regulatory amendment identifying environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as secondhand smoke, as a toxic air contaminant (TAC). A TAC is defined as an air pollutant which may cause or contribute to an increase in deaths or in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health. In February 2007, the ARB approved the Final Regulation Order identifying ETS/secondhand smoke as a TAC, and the regulation became effective on February 8, 2007. The Cal-EPA will now prepare a risk reduction report on potential actions to further reduce exposure to secondhand smoke such as public education programs to increase awareness and understanding of exposure and health effects, as well as additional opportunities to reduce exposure.