Environmental Health and Tobacco

Tobacco use causes 20% of cancer deaths worldwide, and it is estimated that tobacco-related deaths will result in 10-million deaths annually by 2020. We've come a long way since the mid-1900's in understanding the negative health effects of tobacco to smokers.

Health Effects

  • Tobaccos smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 69 can cause cancer. 
  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and causes over 438,000 deaths per year.
  • Secondhand smoke causes 41,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from heart disease and lung cancer.
  • While smoking is on the decline for both adults and students, there is still work to be done.

What Environmental Health Professionals are Doing

Environmental Health professionals conduct a variety of activities to control tobacco exposure, such as:

  • Investigate - Complaints and sample environments that may have unhealthy levels.
  • Enforce - Many municipalities across the county prohibit smoking in public places, so EH professionals enforce local codes, ordinances, and statutes restricting tobacco use. While there are not well-established exposure limits for tobacco smoke, there are many exposure limits for specific chemicals within tobacco smoke. Some of these chemicals have exposure limits for occupational settings.
  • Educate - Environmental Health agencies provide many educational resources and programs in awareness and tobacco cessation. They spearhead health campaigns to prevent illness and injury. Read about what local environmental health agencies are doing for their communities. 

Emerging Issues

NEHA Resources

Additional Resources

American Public Health Association (APHA)

Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure is High in Multiunit Housing Fact Sheet from CDCCenters for Disease Control (CDC) in conjunction with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA)

Green and Healthy Homes Initiative

National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)