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The Dangers Of Passive Smoking In Public Places

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Second-hand smoke (SHS) also called  environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a mixture of 2 forms of smoke viz Mainstream smoke and Sidestream smoke that comes from burning tobacco. Mainstream smoke is smoke exhaled by a smoker while sidestream smoke is the smoke that arises from the lighted end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar or tobacco burning in a hookah. As compared to Mainstream smoke, sidestream smoke has higher concentrations of cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) and is more toxic. The particles are smaller in size, making them easy to enter into the lungs and the body cells.

Did you know?

Passive Smoking effects on Non-Smokers

  • Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and worsens asthma symptoms. source: lung.org
  • Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and increases the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, premature birth, low birth weight, and cleft lip/palate. source: lung.org
  • Men who smoke are at greater risk of erectile dysfunction. source: lung.org

What is Passive Smoking?

Involuntary smoking  or  passive smoking is when non-smokers are exposed to SHS taking in the same amount of nicotine and toxic chemicals as smokers. The more SHS you breathe, the higher the levels of these harmful chemicals in your body.

Second-hand smoke can be very harmful. With more than 7000 toxic chemicals, Second-hand smoke is known to cause cancer in non-smokers. There are various disadvantages of smoking in public places and second-hand smoke. It also affects the heart and blood vessels, by increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some studies have linked Second-hand Smoke to mental and emotional changes, too. Some studies have shown that exposure to Second-hand Smoke is linked to symptoms of depression. Children are at a higher risk of exposure to second-hand smoke, most of which comes from parents and other adults smoking at home. These children tend to get sick more often, are at a higher risk of developing lung infections (like bronchitis and pneumonia) and are more likely to have recurrent episodes of cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. Second-hand smoke is also known to trigger asthma episodes, along with the worsening of symptoms as well as cause new cases of asthma in children who previously didn’t have any symptoms. All these problems may seem small at first, but one cannot neglect with bigger ones associated with them. These would include the expenses incurred, the trips to the doctors, medicines, lost school time, parents having to stay back home to care for their sick child, let alone the discomfort the child has to go through. 

Second-hand smoke is a serious health threat: According to some studies. For every 8 smokers who die from a smoking-related disease, 1 non-smoker dies from second-hand smoke exposure.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Places Where Passive Smoking Can Affect Non-Smokers

Passive Smoking can affect Non-Smokers either at their workplace, in public places or at their homes.

Read More: Health Effects of Smoking

At work:

Most adults are exposed to Second-hand smoke at their workplace. Cleaning the air and ventilating the building still falls short in preventing exposure to Second-hand smoke if people continue to smoke in the building. There should be workplace smoking restrictions.

In public places:

We need to create awareness of the effects of smoking in public places. When smoking is allowed in public places like restaurants, shopping malls, public transport, parks and schools, everyone is at risk of exposure to Second-hand smoke. Hazards of smoking in public places to non-smokers are of special concern, especially when it comes to children.

At home:

We spend most of our time at home. Making our home smoke free will protect our family, our guests and even our pets. Because of Second-hand smoke, any family member could develop health problems, children being especially sensitive to the toxins present in the smoke.   Ventilation, air cleaning or separating smokers from non-smokers will not control the problem of Second-hand Smoke.

Lingering Smoking odours

Particles from second-hand tobacco smoke can settle in dust and on surfaces and remain there long after the smoke is gone. These particles can combine with gases, for example, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the air to form cancer-causing compounds that settle onto surfaces. These compounds may be stirred up and inhaled with other house dust and may also be accidentally taken in through the mouth.

The smoke that burns off the mid to the end of a cigarette or cigar actually contains more harmful substances than the smoke inhaled by the smoker, since there is no filter through which the smoke must pass, this second-hand smoking is probably worse than if you were smoking tobacco directly.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Also Read: Why Does Nicotine Make You Poop: Decoding Its Effects on Digestion

How can you avoid second-hand smoke?

The following suggestions may help in reducing, or even eliminating, you and your family’s exposure to second-hand smoke:

  • Politely ask your guests to smoke outside your house.
  • Ventilate rooms in your home and work by keeping open windows and using the fan.
  • Avoid keeping ashtrays in your home.
  • Instruct babysitters and other caregivers not to smoke around your children, even if it is in their own home.
  • When visiting a smoker’s home with your children, try socializing outside whenever possible.
  • For those of you working in a place that allows smoking, talk to your employer about modifying the company’s smoking policy. Encourage them to support a program to help their employees quit!
  • If possible, ask to work near other non-smokers.
  • Choose a non-smoking room, when staying in a hotel.
  • Keep yourself updated on any changes in federal, state and local smoking laws and become involved in strengthening those laws.

Read More: How to Quit Smoking?

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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