Secondhand Smoke/Vaping Aerosol Exposure Protection

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers.  The Surgeon General has documented that adverse health effects of secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure for non-smokers include:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Respiratory and ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks among children
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung cancer 

There is no safe level of SHS exposure. Despite progress in reducing SHS exposure in the United States, an estimated 58 million Americans remain exposed, nearly half of whom (25 million) are ages 3 to 19.  In South Carolina, 240,000 kids breathe in SHS at home.

Secondhand aerosol (SHA) comes from Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes and vapes, and is produced when users exhale. While SHA generally contains fewer toxins than SHS, the US Surgeon General concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. SHA may expose bystanders to harmful substances such as nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particulates, volatile organic compounds, and other toxins.

Systems Change Efforts for SHS and SHA

Tobacco-Free and Smoke-Free Settings 

Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control (DTPC) staff work to build statewide partnerships resulting in initiatives that reduce exposure to SHS and SHA. Tobacco-free and smoke-free settings in South Carolina currently include schools, hospitals, places of worship, worksites, colleges/universities, and recreation facilities. Most comprehensive tobacco-free and smoke-free policies were enacted before the rise in ENDS product popularity and do not specifically prohibit the use of e-cigarettes or vapes. Tobacco-free efforts at SC DHEC include ENDS products and DTPC staff educate decision makers in different settings about the importance of protecting people from exposure to both secondhand smoke (SHS) and secondhand aerosol (SHA).

Access examples of model tobacco-free and smoke-free policies for various settings.

Smoke-Free v. Tobacco-Free

Smoke-free policies apply to combustible tobacco products ONLY and may allow designated smoking areas, use of ENDS products such as e-cigarettes and vapes, and may provide other exemptions.

Tobacco-free policies prohibit the use of all tobacco, including tobacco-derived products, smokeless tobacco (snuff, chewing tobacco, dip, snus), and ENDS products such as e-cigarettes and vapes.  Tobacco-free policies apply to everyone, in all setting locations, at all times (with no exemptions).  It does not apply to the use of nicotine replacement therapy products (gum, patch, lozenge, inhaler), which are proven to be safe and effective for helping tobacco users quit.

Tobacco-Free Settings

As of September 1, 2020 42% of South Carolinians live in towns, cities, or counties with tobacco-free or smoke-free ordinances. Ordinances vary by municipality but generally prohibit the use of combustible tobacco and other tobacco products in public places, businesses (including restaurants), and some outdoor areas such as ballparks, stadiums, parades, or amphitheaters. Access our online guide here. Call (803) 898-2284 for more information.

Smoke-Free Workplaces Map:  If you're looking to shop, eat or do business in a smoke-free environment, see this map for information about towns, cities or counties that have adopted local tobacco-free or smoke-free ordinances.

Healthcare setting:  DTPC works to protect children from SHS and SHA exposure through the Clinical Effort Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure (CEASE).  CEASE SC engages pediatricians to screen for parental tobacco use when visiting with patients and their families. Participating pediatricians provide cessation help to parents who smoke and help families establish rules for a completely smoke-free home and car.

State agencies:  DTPC launched the A Healthier State: Make Every Workday Great initiative in 2015 to address SHS and SHA exposure in the workplace at state agencies. Technical assistance and education are provided to state agencies to help enact tobacco-free and smoke-free efforts. Get more information on A Healthier State.

Non-governmental worksites:  DTPC has developed evidence-based strategies and resources to assist management and administrators interested in making their workplace Smoke-Free or Tobacco-Free.

Residential mental health and substance use treatment facilities:  People living with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, or substance use issues are more likely to use tobacco and to suffer from tobacco-related health disparities. DTPC works with residential mental health and substance use treatment facilities across the state to provide tobacco cessation education and resources and has developed a guide to help facility managers, administration, and staff create a smoke-free and tobacco-free setting that meets the unique needs of their residents.

Parks and recreation settings:  Since 2010, DTPC has supported the tobacco-free efforts of Hold Out the Lifeline, a non-profit dedicated to faith-based health advocacy.  Tobacco-free efforts are promoted through Mothers Eliminating Secondhand Smoke (M.E.S.S.). For more information visit Hold Out the Lifeline.