Non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke anytime they are around a smoker. It is known as passive or involuntary smoking. When a non-smoker breathes in the secondhand smoke, he or she is taking in the nicotine as well as other toxic chemicals. The same chemicals the smoker inhales. The more often a non-smoker is exposed to secondhand smoke, the higher the level of harmful chemicals that gets into his or her body. There are over 4,000 compounds of chemicals in tobacco smoke and over 60 of them are either known to or suspected to be a cancer-causing agent.
Secondhand smoke or passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke is burning tobacco that is a mixture of mainstream smoked smoke exhaled by the smoker, and side stream smoke, which comes from the lit end of the tobacco product. Although many people believe these two forms are the same, they are not. Side stream smoke has a high concentration of carcinogens, which can cause cancer. Mainstream smoke has a lower concentration of these cancer-causing agents. Side stream smoke also has smaller particles than the other form of smoke, making it easier for these particles to enter body cells. Both forms of smoke are dangerous to not only the smoker, but anyone subjected to environmental tobacco smoke.
As mentioned, tobacco and cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals and over 60 of these chemicals are poisonous and cancer-causing agents. Because of all the chemicals, cigarettes can be harmful and eventually lead to life-threatening illnesses. Most people know that cigarettes contain nicotine and tar, but they also contain acetone, arsenic, ammonia, carbon monoxide, benzene and formaldehyde. Acetone is found in nail polish remover, arsenic is found in rat poison, ammonia is found in household cleaning supplies, benzene is associated with Leukemia, caron monoxide is found in car exhausts, and formaldehyde is used to preserve dead bodies. These are only a few of the dangerous chemicals found in tobacco. These chemicals can be very harmful and cause many different health issues for both smokers and nonsmokers.
Secondhand smoke is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Surgeon General and other national health agencies. When a person inhales secondhand smoke it can cause lung cancer even in those that are not smokers. Although more research is needed, secondhand smoke may also increase the risk of getting breast cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and nasal cavity cancer in adults. There is also the risk of lymphoma, brain tumors, and leukemia in children. Smoking cigarettes has been linked as one of the leading causes of lung cancer but nonsmokers are also in danger of potentially developing these diseases from breathing in the secondhand smoke chemicals.
Smoke can diminish the overall health of a person and can harm almost all of the organs in the body. Smoke has been the cause of serious health problems in millions of people. It is the leading cause of cancers such as bladder, stomach, cervix, pancreas, kidney, mouth, throat and larynx cancer. Smoke can cause acute myeloid leukemia, heart disease, aortic aneurysms, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Women who are pregnant and either smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, have a higher risk of delivering their child prematurely and with a low birth weight. There are many more health issues related to secondhand smoke and exposure should be avoided.
There are ways to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Start by making sure there is no smoking allowed inside the home. This can be done by removing ashtrays or placing no smoking signs in easy to see areas. Be sure to inform anyone that enters the home of the no smoking rule as well. Eliminating any smoking inside the vehicle is also a good idea. When a smoker is noticed, be sure to keep a safe distance to ensure secondhand smoke is not being inhaled. Encourage workplace environments, child care facilities, schools, and restaurants to follow a smoke-free policy. Always be supportive of any loved one trying to kick the habit. Smoking is addictive and it is hard for many people to quit regardless of the dangers involved. Below is more information on how nonsmokers can reduce their exposure.
It is no secret that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to a person’s health. Secondhand smoke is no different. Passive smoke means that a nonsmoker is still ingesting the dangerous chemicals in tobacco such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Nonsmokers are at risk of developing all the same health issues as a smoker. Secondhand smoke should be avoided and can be avoided or at the least reduced by not allowing smoking in the home or in the vehicle. Remove all ashtrays and post no smoking signs if needed. Support and encourage nonsmoking workplaces, schools, restaurants, and other public areas. Encourage smokers trying to quit to stick with it and provide plenty of support.
People will not quit smoking overnight. With proper education they may decide that the related health risks for themselves and their loved ones are more than they are ready to deal with. They may eventually try to quite. In the meantime, non-smoking individuals can protect themselves and their families by reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible. It’s not always easy but it can and should be done. Keep yourself and your family safe by not smoking and avoid areas with increased secondhand smoke exposure. Stay healthy and smoke-free!