The Dangers of Secondhand Cigarette Smoke
Secondhand smoke is a serious problem that can potentially affect the health of people regardless of their age or gender. Also referred to as environmental tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke is a serious health risk that causes many of the same health problems as seen in people who voluntarily smoke. It is such a health risk that it results in the deaths of roughly 50,000 non-smokers annually. Secondhand smoke is formed by the mixture of a smoker's exhaled smoke and the lit end of the cigarette, cigar, etc. When this combination of tobacco smoke fills the space of a room it is inhaled by the people who are present. This is called passive or involuntary smoking. When this happens the non-smoker is taking in many of the same harmful chemicals into their lungs. The Centers for Disease Control reports that secondhand smoke contains 250 toxins and that 50 of them are known carcinogens.
Because of the dangerous chemicals found in secondhand smoke, it is considered a major problem by health organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These agencies label it as a cancer-causing agent, or a known human carcinogen. The longer a non-smoking person is exposed to this type of smoke the higher his or her chance is of developing not only lung cancer, but also throat, voice box, brain, stomach, breast, and bladder cancers. In addition to cancer, secondhand smoke may also cause a number of other diseases which result in a numerous deaths yearly. For example, it is responsible for causing heart disease in non-smokers. As many as 300,000 passive-smoking children under the age of 18 months suffer from lower respiratory tract infections. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to require intensive care if they develop the flu and are likely to require breathing tubes. Women who are pregnant are also at risk of having a miscarriage, delivering babies with low birth weights, or of having a baby who develops a rare type of cancer while in the uterus which is known as hepatoblastoma.
Over the years the findings and reports generated by the Surgeon General have made great strides toward educating the public about secondhand smoke and the dangers associated with it. Reports have warned people that the only way to prevent non-smokers from developing health problems associated with secondhand smoke is to prevent all exposure to it. This includes preventing indoor smoking and keeping buildings well ventilated. Although some states make it illegal to smoke indoors, others do not. In states where indoor smoking is not prohibited, non-smokers may be exposed to tobacco smoke in public places such as restaurants, in shopping centers, on public transportation, and even in daycare centers or schools. People can avoid this by choosing to frequent locations that ban smoking indoors. This is particularly important when choosing schools for children.
Smoking in one's home cannot, however, be regulated by the state. This is where passive smoking can become problematic if one person in the household is a smoker but others are not. There must be serious dialogue between the smoker and the non-smoker in order to prevent smoking inside of the house at all times as smoke will not only be in the air, but it will also settle on furniture, the walls, and bedding. Particles from smoke may settle and blend in with dust and other particles. This contains cancer causing agents as well and is often referred to as residual tobacco smoke, or thirdhand smoke. Smoking at home can quickly become a danger to the entire family and can quickly cause or exacerbate health problems in children. As with the home, secondhand smoke can quickly buildup within the small confines of a car and become hazardous to all who travel in it, whether the smoker is currently smoking inside the vehicle or not. In some states, smoking in cars with small children is prohibited.
The best way to avoid the dangers associated with environmental tobacco smoke is to stay away from it. To accomplish this it is important that smokers in the household respect the health of others and smoke only outside of the home. This may save their children and other loved ones from developing cancer, heart disease or other illnesses as a result of their habit. For people who wish to eliminate cigarette smoke but aren't yet ready to stop smoking, there are smokeless devices that may be used as an alternative to cigarettes. Personal vaporizers, or electronic cigarettes are one such option. They provide the same physical sensation as smoking traditional cigarettes; however, there is no smoke for others around them to inhale. Electronic cigars and pipes are also available. Other replacements for cigarettes include chewing gum, which keeps the jaw occupied.
For more information about the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke, please review the following links.
- Mayo Clinic: Secondhand Smoke – Avoid Dangers in the Air
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Health Effects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
- Cleveland Clinic: Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
- TeensHealth: What are the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke?
- CDC: Secondhand Smoke Facts
- Surgeon General – Secondhand Smoke is Toxic and Poisonous
- Time Magazine: New Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
- WebMD: Effects of Secondhand Smoke
- Healthy Children: The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
- Clean Air Kansas City: Second Hand Smoke Facts (PDF)
- University of Minnesota: Secondhand Smoke Facts
- University of Michigan: Second-Hand Smoke and Smoking During Pregnancy
- Rochester University: Secondhand Smoke, Firsthand Problems
- UC San Francisco: Second Hand Smoke Takes a Large Physical and Economical Toll
- The Importance Of Staying Smoke Free In The Car
- Cigarettes and the Health Effects of Tobacco
- The History of Cigarettes
- Evolution Of Cigarettes And Tobacco Crop
- Say No to Cigarettes With Hypnosis