Adult ETS Exposure: Facts & Figures

Adult exposure to environmental tobacco smoke by:


1 out of 3 nonsmoking adults is exposed to ETS

There is no safe level of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as secondhand smoke. About one third (36%) of nonsmoking adults (18 years and older) in Minnesota were exposed to ETS in any of the surveyed settings (including at home, in a car, or in the community) in the previous week.

Males are more likely to be exposed

When asked about ETS in the car, the home, or elsewhere in the community, 41% of male nonsmokers were exposed in any of these settings compared to 31% of female nonsmokers. There was also a striking difference in community exposure: about 37% of men are exposed to someone smoking near them at any place besides their home or car, compared to about 27% of women.

Nonsmokers exposed to ETS, by sex and source

Source: MN Adult Tobacco Survey, 2014.

Adults are less likely to report ETS exposure at home than youth

Although only about 3% of adult nonsmokers were exposed in the home, about 16% of youth grades 6-12 that don't smoke were exposed at home in the same year, or about 1 in every 6 children that don't smoke and are in middle school or high school. That means, in Minnesota, that youth that don't smoke may be more likely to live with a smoker compared to adults that don't smoke, or that youth that don't smoke are more likely to report smoking inside the home than their nonsmoking adult counterparts. See Youth ETS: Facts & Figures for more information.


Exposure has been decreasing over time

Exposures in the car and the home have slightly declined over time for adults that do not smoke, with small but significant decreases between 2003 and 2014 in both settings.

Nonsmokers exposed to ETS in car and home, by year

Source: MN Adult Tobacco Survey.

Previous surveys showed that overall exposure to ETS had declined over time, especially between 2003 and 2010. This corresponds with Freedom to Breathe legislation enacted in 2007 in Minnesota, which prohibits smoking in virtually all public indoor areas (including bars, restaurants, and workplaces).

Wording changes in the 2014 survey make it difficult to compare overall exposures over time for the "community" setting. Trends in "any" exposure must be interpreted with caution due to slight wording changes.


Young nonsmokers have the highest exposure

Young adults aged 18-24 years are the most likely to be exposed to ETS, significantly higher than any other age category of nonsmokers, with just over half (53%) of nonsmokers reporting exposure in the car, the home, or elsewhere in the community in the past week. Each age grouping is less likely to report exposure than the previous category.

Nonsmokers exposed to ETS, by age

Source: MN Adult Tobacco Survey, 2014.

Nonsmokers aged 18-24 are also more likely than nonsmokers 25 years and older to be exposed in the car and in the community (which captures any other place other than the home or car).


American Indian and Hispanic nonsmokers are most likely to be exposed

About 6 in 10 American Indian nonsmokers and about 5 in 10 Hispanic nonsmokers were exposed to ETS in the past week. Each of these race/ethnicity categories are significantly more likely to be exposed in the past week than white nonsmokers.

Nonsmokers exposed to ETS, by race/ethnicity

Source: MN Adult Tobacco Survey; 2007, 2010, & 2014 combined.

Exposure to ETS differs between regions of the state

There is some regional variability in nonsmokers exposed to ETS in the state, although the difference is only about 10 percentage points between the highest and the lowest proportion. South Central Minnesota has a significantly lower proportion of nonsmokers exposed to ETS (29%) compared to the Northwest region (40%) and the Twin Cities Metro (36%).

Nonsmokers exposed to ETS, by region

Source: MN Adult Tobacco Survey, 2014.

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