Life is precious and sacred. We have lost so many of our loved ones—our grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, and uncles—to early death and disease caused by commercial tobacco.

Hard Facts

Nearly half of the Lakota people in South Dakota use commercial tobacco. More than double the rates of other populations.

  • Cardiovascular and lung disease and cancer—all caused by commercial tobacco use—are the leading causes of death among American Indians.
  • Commercial tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease among our people.
  • Nearly 1,000 people die every year in South Dakota as a result of their own smoking.
  • There are 18,000 kids under age 18 alive in South Dakota today who will die prematurely from smoking.
  • The tobacco industry is spending millions to get our young people addicted to their products.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is a combination of smoke from the burning end of the cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers when they exhale.

  • When a person smokes near you, everyone breathes in secondhand smoke.
  • When you breathe secondhand smoke, you are inhaling the exact same dangerous chemicals that the smoker does.

Some effects of secondhand smoke might be temporary, others are more permanent—and some are even deadly. The sacred Wakȟáŋyeža (children) and Wakáŋ (elders) are especially at risk for the harms of secondhand smoke.

  • Causes cancer and heart disease in both smokers and non-smokers.
  • A known risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—it can kill our babies.
  • Our children are more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and severe asthma from being around secondhand smoke.
  • It’s especially dangerous for pregnant women and elders to inhale the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke because it weakens their immune systems.
baby and secondhand smoke

There is NO safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.


What is thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is the invisible combination of particles and gasses that cling to a smoker’s hair and clothing. This toxic chemical residue sticks to cushions on couches and chairs, carpeting, curtains, blankets, stuffed toys, walls, and every other surface in a house or car.

Why is thirdhand smoke so dangerous?

Even after secondhand smoke has completely cleared, these dangerous chemicals remain. The sticky residue contains cancer causing chemicals, heavy metals, carcinogens, and other harmful substances people (even pets) can get on their hands and clothes.

Thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous to children.

  • When infants and babies breathe, crawl, play with, and put their mouths on contaminated surfaces, they ingest leftover toxins at a much higher rate than adults.
  • Exposure can cause lung problems like wheezing and asthma.
  • Exposure has been linked to slower healing, learning, and behavior problems.

Clear the air—Create a smoke-free environment

Second and thirdhand smoke exposes our children, our families, and our loved ones to dangerous chemicals that can damage their bodies and result in life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

It’s not enough to smoke outside, open a window, move to another room, or turn on a fan. Spraying air freshener—even painting or re-carpeting—may not be enough to remove the toxic chemicals left behind.

The best way to make sure your family is safe is to adopt a strict no smoking policy in your home and car. Here’s how to create a smoke-free environment:

  1. Create a comfortable place to smoke outdoors. Let your guests know your house is smoke-free and show them to the outdoor smoking area.
  2. If you have smoking visitors, store their items away from your children and insist they change clothes and shower before holding babies/children.
  3. Ask your visitors to wash their hands before holding baby.
  4. If you continue to smoke, always wash your hands before touching your children or other household items (remotes/furniture).
  5. Wash your hands.
  6. Keep a special ‘smoking jacket’ or other shirt you wear when you smoke, so you don’t bring clothes full of smoke back into your smoke-free home.
  7. Never smoke inside your home, even when it’s cold outside. Smoking indoors one time is enough to contaminate the rest of the house, even if you’re in a room with the doors closed.
  8. Keeping an umbrella near the door will help encourage you to go outside to smoke even when the weather is bad.
  9. Consider posting a sign and removing ashtrays to remind visitors that there is no smoking in your house.
  10. Wash surfaces with vinegar. Washing with soap or dry cleaning may not remove nicotine or other chemicals.

Where to find support

For the future of our people, we must find the power to quit… in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our culture.

Firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand smoke are all health hazards. The best way for us to avoid these dangers is to quit smoking and encourage those you love to quit too.

Quit with a coach.

Enroll in the QuitLine’s phone coaching program.

Not ready to talk to a coach?

Kickstart your quit attempt with free medication.

To order other free support materials, like smoke-free door hangers and no smoking or vaping window and card clings, visit the SD Department of Health’s Educational Materials Catalog.