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Oxford dictionary defines passive as accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.
What would we call a non-smoker who resists but still has to inhale other people's smoke[because nobody listens to him or whatever may be the reason]?

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Second-Hand Smoke is the accepted term for this phenomenon in the United States.

The passive in the sense you are using it refers to the opposite of active smoking. By sitting around and breathing, you are passively taking on smoke that you didn't draw from a cigarette yourself.

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    "I decided to quit smoking. To start with, I stopped buying cigarettes. In time, I may stop passive smoking as well." --Anon. – Kris Feb 24 '14 at 6:27
  • @Kris Yup. That fits exactly! Unrelated: But, I've always loved WC Fields's "I always keep a supply of stimulant [liquor] handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy." – David M Feb 24 '14 at 6:28
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The story of the word seems to fit perfectly with the contextual meaning in passive smoking.

passive
Origin late Middle English (in sense 2 of the adjective, also in the sense
'(exposed to) suffering, acted on by an external agency')
: from Latin passivus, from pass- 'suffered', from the verb pati.

That 'sense 2' (grammar, verb) says

… in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb …

But seriously, this usage of the adverb connotes something like performing an action without actually doing it by oneself; rather, by proxy. It's not inaction, it is participation in an indirect way.

cf. passive income

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.

Sit back and enjoy your bank interest month after month, your neighbor's Cavendish puff after puff.

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What would we call a non-smoker who resists but still has to inhale other people's smoke?

That innocent victim, i.e. the person who inhales cigarette smoke involuntarily, is simply called a passive smoker or a nonsmoker.

The terms passive smoking and second-hand smoke are however more commonly used to describe this phenomenon. I believe the former is more common in BrEng and in the rest of Europe, for instance Italians use the same expression, whereas the latter is AmEng. A more accurate description, albeit less common, would be passive inhalation.

(Passive smoking) Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called second-hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke, [ETS] by persons other than the intended "active" smoker. It occurs when tobacco smoke permeates any environment, causing its inhalation by people within that environment.

The Op asked in one of the comments:

What if non-smoker resists? What would we call such a person?

There's not an awful lot a nonsmoker can do if he or she wishes to resist. One option is to ask the person smoking to put out their cigarette, this is acceptable if the action is happening indoors. Another, and ironically speaking, more passive approach is to leave the room, or change table if the smoker(s) are sitting outside a cafè.

What the nonsmoker is called by people who are enjoying their quiet moment of cigarette smoking, I leave to your imagination but the most polite term I can come with would be a busybody.

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The term is translated form the German Passivrauchen coined in Nazi Germany in the 1930's. You should ask doctor Karl Astel why they decided to call it passive rahter then inactive, secondary, involuntary or something else.

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"Passive smoking" isn't a function of resistance or acceptance. It is a term for people who inhale tobacco smoke despite not being the person using the tobacco.

  • In America we refer to this as Second-Hand Smoke (or smoking). – David M Feb 24 '14 at 5:51
  • My question is why, not What. I know what does passive smoking mean but what I want to know is why is it called so? Passive implies lack of resistance. What if non-smoker resists? What would we call such a person? – Sandeep D Feb 24 '14 at 6:01
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    Call that person and "anti-smoking activist," I guess. You can't really control what parts of the air in front of your face go into your lungs when you breathe. Since you can't control it, you're passive. The smoker is actively smoking. Inhaling and exhaling smoke from a lit cigar is active; breathing is passive, no matter what you think about the quality of the air you breathe. The opposite of active is passive. Hence the phrase. It's not really about the literal definition of the term passive, just that passive is the opposite of active. – Elijah Feb 24 '14 at 6:11
  • @SandeepDhamija - the 'passive' is not in reference to the person's outrage or not over the act, but what he is doing. The smoker lights the cigarette, puffs it in, blows out the smoke. The passive smoker takes no action more than he would be doing if the smoker were absent. He just gets some smoke along with breathing in the passive smoker case. – Oldcat Feb 25 '14 at 1:12

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