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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Second-Hand Smoke Outdoors

Second-hand smoke can be found wherever a tobacco product is burned such as in the entrance to doorways of buildings and workplaces, at local transit stops, at sports events, and basically in any public outdoor space.

When looking at outdoor places there is a common belief that it is safe to use tobacco outdoors because the smoke will drift away or individuals will move out of the way of the second-hand smoke.


There is no safe level of second-hand smoke inside or outside!1

  • Second-hand smoke (whether inside or outside) is particularly dangerous to children as they are still growing and developing and exposure to it can lead to many health effects.1 2
  • If children see role models like their family, friends, coaches, teachers, athletes or even celebrities using tobacco, they are more likely to start.1
  • Children are less likely to leave a smoke filled place or even complain about the level of smoke.
  • Outdoor levels of tobacco smoke can be as high as indoors.1 4
  • If there is no wind, tobacco smoke will rise and fall and flood the local area with second-hand smoke; if there is a breeze, tobacco smoke will spread in many directions.3
  • Depending upon weather conditions and air flow, tobacco smoke can be detected at distances between 25-30 feet away.3
  • The harm of tobacco smoke is greater if there are many lit cigarettes burning at the same time and if someone is close to the tobacco smoke.4


Minimizing the Risk of Second-Hand Smoke Outdoors

Additional Information

For more information, please contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit's Tobacco Control Team.

Date of creation: March 12, 2013
Last modified on: July 8, 2015


1Smoke-Free Ontario Scientific Advisory Committee. (2010). Evidence to Guide Action: Comprehensive Tobacco Control in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion. Retrieved from
2Klepeis NE, Ott WR, Switzer P. (2007). Real-time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles. J. Air Waste & Manage. Assoc.; 05;57(5):522-534.
3Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada. (2010). Smoke-Free Outdoor Public Spaces: A Community Advocacy Toolkit. Ottawa, ON: Physicians For A Smoke-Free Canada. Retrieved from
4Repace, J. (2005). Measurements of Outdoor Air Pollution from Second hand Smoke on the UMBC Campus. Repace Associates, Inc., Bowie, MD. Retrieved from