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% of adult non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke


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Story Behind the Curve

Last Updated: May 2020

Author: Asthma Program, Vermont Department of Health

The percent of adult nonsmokers exposed to second hand smoke steadily declined from 2008-2012. In 2008, 49% of Vermont nonsmokers were exposed to secondhand smoke, and in 2012 it had declined to 39%. The Healthy Vermonter goal is 30%. The downward trend was likely influenced by the statewide smoke-free laws prohibiting smoking in worksites, restaurants, bars and in 2014 in cars with children under age 8. Moreover, a number of towns have passed smoke-free parks, playgrounds, municipal buildings and beaches including Burlington for its popular pedestrian area of Church Street. Act 135, which went into effect in 2014, makes the smoke-free ban even more extensive as it prohibits smoking in rooms rented to guests in hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments.

However, since 2012 we see an increase in reported exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2016, 50% of Vermont adults reported being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Any exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to health. Reports of increased exposure may be due to a higher level of awareness of tobacco smoke and risks of secondhand smoke exposure risks, and concentrations of smokers in fewer places. Vermonters report most exposure occurring in public places such as pedestrian walkways or around businesses and municipal buildings. As Vermont communities, supported by the efforts of tobacco grantees, Offices of Local Health and other stakeholders, put in even more protections to reduce exposure around commercial buildings and on the campuses of hospitals and colleges and in parks and on beaches, hazardous exposure to second hand smoke exposure should start again to decrease.

Vermont offers a suite of cessation services through its 802Quits which includes free Quitline, Quit in Person and Quit Online support. Approximately half of Vermonters try to quit every year; for most people several attempts build upon success, thereby reducing smoking in of the home, car and other places where exposure occurs.

Why Is This Important?

Nationally, one in four nonsmokers or around 58 million people are still exposed to second hand smoke. This is even more striking in minority populations where seven in 10 black children are exposed to second hand smoke. 1

Additional key findings in the CDC Vital Signs Report include that:

  • More than two in five nonsmokers who live below the poverty level are exposed to second hand smoke.
  • More than one in three nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to second hand smoke. 1

Second hand smoke is an identified trigger of asthma exacerbations and second hand smoke exposure in utero is a known cause of asthma .1

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.


  • Blueprint for Health partners with VDH programs, including the tobacco program, on delivering community-based cessation; Quit Partners offers group counseling, nicotine replacement therapy and peer support.
  • Rutland Regional Medical Center partners with both the Asthma and Tobacco Programs including providing group cessation and making referrals to the Quitline and Quit Online.
  • Department of Vermont Health Access partners with the Vermont Tobacco and Asthma Programs on improving and promoting Medicaid’s benefits and VDH resources to help Medicaid beneficiaries quit and improve their asthma control.
  • Vermont Department of Health Office of Local Health are partners that work with the Vermont Asthma Program to disseminate Asthma Action Plans and reach local communities with resources including 802Quits.
  • Northeast American Lung Association is a partner that works with the Vermont Asthma Program on supplying education materials to asthma educators within the state and advocating for strong tobacco control and prevention
  • 802Quits is a partner that works with the Vermont Asthma Program to reduce the higher than state average prevalence seen among those with asthma.
  • Maternal and Child Health is a division in the Department of Health that works with the Vermont Asthma Program on increasing tobacco screening and referrals among providers, particularly for pregnant women and new moms.
  • Asthma Advisory Panel is a partner that works with the Vermont Asthma Program on developing strategic goals and relationships.
  • University of Vermont: Pediatrics is a partner that works with the Vermont Asthma Program on expanding access and delivery of supplementary asthma self-management education to those with uncontrolled asthma and severe persistent asthma to prevent asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and those asthma familoies exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Vermont One Care is a partner that works with the Vermont Asthma Program at improving care for pediatric and adult populations by hosting a learning collaborative and facilitating quality improvement projects among participating providers and practices in guideline care, with focus on tobacco screening and cessation referrals.
  • Hark Website Design, Branding & Communication is a partner that works with Vermont Asthma Program creating a digital media plan with the goal of increasing awareness of secondhand smoke exposures, increasing referrals to 802Quits, promoting importance of flu shots and asthma action plans, and reducing exposures to asthma triggers in homes and schools.
What Works

Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke among those who are nonsmokers involves several strategies including passing state smoke free laws and local ordinances, creating smoke free and tobacco free campuses at hospitals/worksites/colleges, and linking smokers with quit supports (802Quits).


The Vermont Asthma Program works with all its partners to increase the awareness of triggers of asthma. Recognizing, avoiding and eliminating asthma triggers are all strategies taught and reinforced as part of all the self-management programs and educational initiatives. The Vermont Tobacco and Asthma Programs will work with the populations throughout the state with the purpose of assisting those having higher risk and prevalence of asthma and/or exposure to tobacco. The Vermont Tobacco and Asthma programs will disseminate information about 802Quits in the monthly asthma newsletter which goes to providers and leverage relationships and networks to disseminate and educate on the importance of creating smoke and tobacco free spaces, and linking to cessation support. The Asthma and Tobacco programs are highly connected and so there is a lot of cross pollination and resource sharing between the two programs.

Notes on Methodology

Data is updated as it becomes available and timing may vary by data source. For more information about this indicator, click here.

This indicator is age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. In U.S. data, age adjustment is used for comparison of regions with varying age breakdowns. In order to remain consistent with the methods of comparison at a national level, some statistics in Vermont were age adjusted. In cases where age adjustment was noted as being part of the statistical analysis, the estimates were adjusted based on the proportional age breakdowns of the U.S. population in 2000. For more detailed information on age adjustment visit /

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