If you think you’re safe from all the ailments that cigarettes give because you don’t smoke, think again. If you live in a house where another person smokes or you are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke, you’re not safe at all. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke is like engaging in the activity yourself, or even worse.
Also called passive smoke, secondhand smoke is tobacco smoke inhaled by a person who doesn’t smoke. This is usually a combination of the smoke from the tobacco called sidestream smoke and the smoke exhaled by the smoker called mainstream smoke.
It contains almost the same amount of chemicals, toxins, and cancer-causing substances. But what some people don’t know is that secondhand smoke is even worse than active smoking in some aspects. It exposes you to twice more tar and nicotine per volume, thrice more carcinogen benzpyrene, five times more carbon monoxide, and 50 times more ammonia.
Lung cancer is the number one health risk associated with passive smoking. As you know, cigarette smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing substances. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labels secondhand smoke as “known human carcinogen”. A carcinogen refers to a substance that causes cancer.
If you live with a person who smokes, you have 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer than a non-smoker who’s not exposed to secondhand smoke. In the United States, lung cancer kills more than 3,000 people yearly due to passive smoking.
Cancer isn’t the only disease caused by secondhand smoking. This can also increase heart rate, contribute to fatigue, and thicken the walls of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack. If you’re pregnant and your baby is exposed to secondhand smoke, you’re at risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. Your child may be born with low birth weight, decreased lung function, middle ear infections, sinus infections, deciduous teeth, and so on. Babies exposed to passive smoking are also at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If you smoke or there’s a smoker in the family, the best way to prevent diseases or premature death is to quit smoking. That is undeniably the best way to protect your family, particularly the children from the serious repercussions of passive smoking. If this is not an option for you, the next best thing is not to allow smoking inside the house. Never smoke near the children. Smoking in front of the children will not only harm their health now, but would also encourage them to take on this activity when they grow up, thinking that it’s a normal part of life.
In the United States and other countries, smoking has been banned in public places. Workplaces and public buildings have separated designated areas for smoking. Air purification and ventilation systems have also been improved to lessen the threats associated with passive smoking.