The well-documented health impacts of secondhand tobacco smoke are similar to the health impacts of wood smoke in the developed world.

The Other Secondhand Smoke: A Precedent

In the United States, as evidence mounted of the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, and after passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, business owners, companies and other public entities realized they faced a liability issue if they continued to allow smoking on their premises. People with asthma and other diseases who were affected by tobacco smoke began to sue for their right to breathe in public. Around the world, attitudes and policies changed as the dangers of tobacco smoke became more widely understood.

 

A sign that says "Air is too good to spoil, so please no smoking"Few today would argue that someone’s right to smoke comes before another’s right to breathe healthy air. Yet, smoke is smoke. Both tobacco smoke and wood smoke come from burning plant material. Chemically, wood smoke shares many of the same harmful compounds as tobacco smoke, only it has them in larger quantities. Laboratory studies have provided evidence that wood smoke may even be more carcinogenic and toxic than secondhand cigarette smoke (see our Health Effects page).

 

Everyone, including the very young, the elderly and those with lung and heart diseases, must have a right to engage in normal daily activities without experiencing damaged health due to involuntary exposure to wood smoke.

 

It makes no sense to restrict cigarettes to protect others from secondhand smoke while allowing private individuals and businesses to pollute others’ spaces with wood smoke.

 

 photo of a toddler with an oxygen maskThe Human Right to Health

According to the World Health Organization, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

 

A growing body of research clearly demonstrates that people who are routinely exposed to wood smoke pollution where they live, work or go to school face increased risks for serious health outcomes, and even premature death, compared to others who spend their days in neighborhoods with less localized air pollution.

 

When people, especially sick and vulnerable people, are forced to breathe wood smoke they are denied the human right to attain their highest possible standard of health.

 

For more information about wood burning and public spaces, please follow these links:

 

 

Wood-Burning

Restaurants

A Precendent