Contributed by- Dr Snehal Singh
In the last few decades, smoking and its effects on health and society have been examined at length. We have all seen multiple ads by the government enumerating the risks of smoking, every time you watch a movie there is a warning that warns of the harmful effects of smoking. In fact, cigarette packets now have to carry images of the cancerous effects of smoking. However, information on passive smoking is still vague, many people still believe that being exposed to smoke can’t be as harmful as smoking itself.
Today we are trying to examine passive smoking in more depth to get a better understanding of what its effects are and how deep do they go.
What is passive smoking?
Passive smoking is inhaling another person’s tobacco smoke. It is usually a combination of mainstream smoke exhaled by a smoker and smoke that drifts out from the lighted end of the cigarette or sidestream smoke. Passive smoking is a lot higher in families of smokers. However, everyone is at risk. Passive smoking doesn’t only mean inhaling cigarette smoke; it also includes pipes, cigars or hookah. If a person next to you or a family member is smoking, you inhale the second-hand smoke without realizing it.
Why is passive smoking considered more dangerous?
Passive smoking involves inhalation of harmful chemicals that are directly released from the burning end of a cigarette, in addition to the exhaled smoke by a smoker. Since the cigarette’s burning end doesn’t have a filter it releases more toxins into the air. The combination of both types of smoke contains higher concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals. It contains smaller particles, which can easily enter the lungs and body cells and cause more harm. So, while the filter saves the smoker, the same isn’t true for the people around him..
What are some of the common effects of passive smoking?
Some of the harmful health effects of passive smoking include the following,
- Irritation of the nose and eyes, causing watering and burning of eyes
- Aggravation of existing respiratory problems like asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Increased risk of clogged arteries, stroke and angina
- Possible risk of emotional changes and depression
Can passive smoking cause asthma?
Tobacco smoke is one of the most common causes of asthma attacks. Anyone with existing respiratory conditions can face worsening of their condition by exposure to second-hand smoke. As the second-hand smoke contains very tiny particles, they can travel to the lungs and cause harmful effects. Some adults and children are more sensitive than others. Additionally, the overall health, genetic predisposition and risk of allergic or respiratory problems vary. Inhalation of smoke influences the possibility of developing asthma. Children with known cases of asthma may have more frequent episodes or severe attacks of asthma.
Can passive smoking cause lung cancer?
Several studies have shown that second-hand smoke can cause cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, second-hand smoke contains 7000 chemicals, of which at least 70 are those which can cause cancer. Passive smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer in a person who has never smoked. It can put a person at a greater risk of other types of cancers too.
Also, carcinogenic particles in the smoke settle on various surfaces and mix with the dust, long after the smoke is gone. This dust, when inhaled, can also increase the risk of cancer.
What are the effects of passive smoking in pregnancy?
Active and passive smoking have a very harmful effect on pregnant women. It can seriously affect the fetus. Pregnant women exposed to passive smoking are at greater risk of giving birth to preterm and underweight babies. Smoking during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, premature births and complications during birth. It can also cause learning and behavioral difficulties in the child in later years.
What are the passive smoking effects on children’s health?
Passive smoking is harmful to everyone; however, its effect on children is especially severe. Children exposed to passive smoking can develop a host of health issues many of which will have serious long term impact. Children exposed to second-hand smoke generally tend to develop issues like bronchitis, pneumonia, coughing, wheezing, worsening of asthma, and middle ear infections frequently. Long-term implications of passive smoking include risk of neuro-behavioural impairment and cardiovascular diseases and cancers in adulthood.
Passive smoking can have a profound impact on their growth and development, along with their studies and hinder their overall performance. Very young children exposed to second-hand smoke are at greater risk of serious problems like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
How to prevent passive smoking?
The best way to protect yourself from passive smoking is to keep your house, workplace and your environment smoke-free. It is best to quit smoking and educate children about not getting involved in any kind of smoking. Smokers must avoid smoking at home, in cars, in common groups or public places. Opening the doors does not help, smoking outside may help protect the non-smokers. Various nations have implemented regulations to reduce and prevent passive smoking
Not smoking at all is the most effective way to deal with the harmful effects of smoking and passive smoking.
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