The health hazards of environmental exposure to tobacco smoke are the same as those directed to smokers.
In Finland, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke causes roughly 10–30 lung cancers and 50–300 deaths due to cardiovascular diseases annually. The higher number of cardiovascular diseases is due to the fact that the illnesses that are being diagnosed today are the result of higher exposure before the current smoking restrictions entered into force.
Harmful to children
Environment exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy slows foetal growth and therefore reduces birth weight. Strong exposure may add to the risk of miscarriage or premature labor, although scientific proof in this regard is lacking. There are also indications that a baby’s exposure to tobacco smoke after birth is a contributing factor to sudden infant death syndrome.
For children, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke causes chronic respiratory symptoms, increases the risk of contracting asthma and the likelihood of respiratory infections and slows the development of lung capacity. Environmental exposure to tobacco smoke also makes the symptoms of children with asthma more severe.
In Finland, smoking in vehicles is prohibited with anyone under the age of 15 present in the vehicle. The ban is not applied to living spaces within vehicles, for example, in camper vans.
Exposure at work
A smoke-free environment is widely endorsed, also among smokers. The number of people exposed to tobacco smoke, for example, at work has dropped to a few per cent. Environmental exposure to tobacco smoke in restaurants was high before smoking in restaurants was banned in 2007. At other workplaces, smoking was banned already in 1995.
In 2004, more than 12,000 people exposed to tobacco smoke at work were reported to the register of employees exposed to carcinogens (ASA), whereas in 2014, the number had dropped to 119. Today, prison guards, cleaners, practical nurses and social instructors and advisers may be exposed to tobacco smoke at work.
Smoking at work is only allowed on smoking premises, which must have separate ventilation. The construction of smoking premises is subject to a construction permit. Cleaner air at the workplace reduces employees’ risk of contracting lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.