Secondhand smoke and rhinitis

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Purpose of review

The article reviews the most recent literature on the association between secondhand tobacco smoke exposure and rhinitis. The discussion will focus on the biologic links between tobacco exposure and rhinitis symptoms, evaluating this relationship in different populations.

Recent findings

Significant associations between tobacco smoke exposure and rhinitis symptoms have been identified in US children and adults. This association is not just a US public health concern, as similar analyses have also recently been performed in other populations. Although pediatric data show a significant trend to greater prevalence of rhinitis with greater levels of secondhand smoke exposure, the adult data on secondhand smoke exposure are less consistent. The exact biological mechanism for these associations is likely multifactorial, but does not appear to be driven by an allergic, IgE-mediated reaction.


The associations between secondhand tobacco smoke exposure and various upper respiratory inflammatory conditions, including rhinitis, have been observed. The causative biologic mechanisms, however, remain elusive and are a likely target for future research. At this point, evidence points toward nonallergic inflammation as the most likely mechanism. Clearly, further research is necessary before this mechanism is fully established.

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