Youth secondhand smoke exposure

Youth exposure to secondhand smoke in Minnesota:

What can be done about youth secondhand smoke exposure?

Almost half of nonsmoking youth are exposed to secondhand smoke

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke. Nationally, about 4 in 10 children aged 3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke. In Minnesota, almost half (47%) of nonsmoking youth in grades 6-12 were exposed in the previous week to secondhand smoke in one or more surveyed settings (including at home, in a car, at school, at work, or in a public place).

Secondhand smoke exposure among Minnesota youth, by setting

 
"Work" includes youth with and without jobs. Source: 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.
 
"Work" includes youth with and without jobs. Source: 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.

The most common setting for secondhand smoke exposure was a public place (33%), either indoor or outdoor. Although only 4% of nonsmoking youth were exposed at work, more than 2 in 10 (22%) of young people that worked at their job in the past week were exposed to secondhand smoke.


Trends in secondhand smoke exposure over time

Although the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey has been conducted since 2000, changes to the survey questions in 2014 make it impossible to examine overall trends, with the exception of exposure in a car and even this must be interpreted with caution due to slight wording changes.

Secondhand smoke exposure in a car or vehicle among Minnesota youth, by year

 
Source: 2000-2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Surveys.
 
Source: 2000-2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Surveys.

Exposure to secondhand smoke in a car or vehicle continued to decrease through 2017 for nonsmoking youth. For secondhand smoke exposure in cars, a larger proportion of youth in Greater Minnesota were exposed than youth in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area (metro). One in eight kids in the metro and two in 10 kids in Greater Minnesota were exposed to secondhand smoke in a car or vehicle in 2017. 

Exposure to secondhand smoke has declined over time, with a substantial decline between 2005 and 2008 corresponding with Freedom to Breathe legislation enacted in 2007 in Minnesota, which prohibits smoking in virtually all public indoor areas (including bars, restaurants, and workplaces).

Currently, about four in five (79%) of young people in grades 6 through 12 report that smoking is never allowed in their family vehicles, and this tends to be higher in the metro (82%) compared to Greater Minnesota (76%).


Health inequities in secondhand smoke exposure

Secondhand smoke exposure among Minnesota youth, by race and ethnicity

 
Source: 2014 and 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Surveys.
 
Source: 2014 and 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Surveys.

Young people that identify as American Indian are the most likely nonsmokers to be exposed to secondhand smoke (56%). Youth that identify as Asian or Pacific Islander are the least likely nonsmokers to be exposed to secondhand smoke (39%). The categories shown here were not mutually exclusive - youth could choose more than one category to describe their race or ethnicity.

Youth that report American Indian race are most likely to smoke cigarettes compared to other race/ethnicities.


Secondhand smoke exposure among Minnesota youth, by region and setting

 
Source: 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.
 
Source: 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.

There are small differences in secondhand smoke exposure between nonsmokers in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area (metro) and Greater Minnesota. Young people in Greater Minnesota were more likely to be exposed in their home or in a vehicle compared to metro-area youth.

Young people in the metro were more likely to report that smoking is never allowed in their family vehicle compared to Greater Minnesota youth.


Secondhand smoke exposure is completely preventable

Secondhand smoke exposure is completely preventable, and many Minnesota communities are working to protect people. Many children and families are still exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, cars, and parks. Completely eliminating smoking indoors is the only way to protect people from secondhand smoke.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Tobacco Control Framework: 2016-2021 (PDF) recommends expanding clean indoor air policies to include locations like cars with children, lodging, treatment facilities, and other places used by the public.

Communities can reduce exposure through smoke-free policies

Local Minnesota communities are bringing cleaner, safer air to residents by working with local property managers and to implement smoke-free housing policies. Between November 2013 and August 2015, Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grantees and their partners brought smoke-free policies to 365 rental properties around the state.

Parents can eliminate smoking in their homes and cars

Parents can help protect their families from secondhand smoke by eliminating smoking in their home and car, asking people not to smoke around their family and children, or by quitting tobacco altogether.
 

Last updated June 2019