Be it smoking or inhaling smoke from someone else who smokes tobacco is a danger to health. When someone smokes a cigarette, most of the smoke is inhaled into their lungs, while excess smoke is released into the open air as secondhand smoke. When this happens, those who do not smoke are equally at risk of the damaging secondhand smoking effects.
What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is a combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. It can be released from a cigar, cigarette, or tobacco in a pipe.
Why is secondhand smoke dangerous?
Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic and around 70 can cause cancer. According to the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report in the United States, 2.5 million non-smoker adults have lost their lives due to breathing in secondhand smoke.
Common secondhand smoking effects
The common health consequences of breathing in secondhand smoke include nasal irritation, respiratory problems, heart complications, and even low birth weight in pregnant women. The following are these health effects in detail:
Increased risk of lung cancer
Secondhand smoke is capable of causing lung cancer in adults who do not smoke. This group of people who are exposed to secondhand smoke are 20-30% more at risk of developing lung cancer.
Brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage cells and cause the cancer process to be rolled into motion. The longer an individual is exposed to secondhand smoke and the higher level of exposure he/she receives, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.
Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
Secondhand smoke effects also include increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke. This is because exposure to the smoke can have adverse effects on your blood vessels and blood, causing an interference with the normal functioning of the heart, blood and vascular systems.
Brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause blood platelets to become stickier. These anomalies are known to cause fatal heart attacks. Additionally, those who have preexisting cardiovascular complications increase their risk of suffering adverse effects from breathing in secondhand smoke.
Causes harm to children and infants
Several studies have revealed that children who live with parents who smoke tend to get sick more often. They are likely to experience less growth of the lungs compared to children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke, and are known to develop bronchitis and pneumonia. Wheezing and asthma are also more common in this group of children.
Secondhand smoke effects also include causing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), where an infant experiences sudden, unexplainable, and unexpected death in the first year of life. SIDS can occur when women smoke during pregnancy or when the infant is exposed to secondhand smoke after birth. Infants who die from SIDS have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs compared to infants who die from other causes.
Preventative measures for secondhand smoke
It is important to always be aware of your surroundings to actively avoid areas or people that emit secondhand smoke. As for children, constant monitoring of their exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors during playtime or at school will go a long way in keeping them safe.
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Effects of Secondhand Smoke (webmd.com)
Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke (cancer.org)
Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke | CDC