Secondhand Smoke Kills Too

Most of you know that smoking cigarettes is bad for you. The smoke gets into your lungs and over time causes cancer. But you may not know that secondhand smoke – the smoke released into the air by the smoker – is bad for everyone in the room with the smoker! Breathing in secondhand smoke makes it more likely to get lung cancer and many other types of cancer. Breathing in secondhand smoke is also not good for your heart. If you live with a smoker or frequently spend time in the company of people who smoke, this article is for you! It could change your life!

Secondhand smoke is the smoke a smoker breathes out and that comes from the tip of burning cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. It contains about 4,000 chemicals.

Let me explain more about what secondhand smoke is and why it is so harmful. When you are sitting with a person who is smoking, you inhale the same dangerous chemicals as the smoker. The smoker will inhale only 15% of the harmful smoke into his/her lungs, the rest is blown out in to the room. Everyone in this room breathes in the secondhand smoke into their own lungs. That means 85% of the smoke generated by the smoker is blown into the room for anyone close by to inhale.  Second hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals, and a number of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Even breathing in secondhand smoke for a short time can cause a number of health problems in both adults and children.

Here are some disturbing facts about secondhand smoke:

  • Many of the secondhand smoke chemicals are dangerous; more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Anytime children breathe in secondhand smoke they are exposed to these chemicals.
  • 282,000 Minnesota kids will be exposed to secondhand smoke at home this year.
  • Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • 92% of Minnesotans believe that breathing smoke from other people’s cigarettes is harmful.
  • Almost half of Minnesota adults report being exposed to secondhand smoke during the past week.

Exposure to secondhand smoke causes potential harm to pregnant women and their unborn child:

  • Miscarriage
  • Low birth weight
  • Learning deficiencies
  • Behavioral deficiencies
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Exposure to secondhand smoke by children creates additional risks to those children:

  • Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get colds, have allergies, asthma and ear infections.
  • Second hand smoke causes 300,000 cases of pneumonia and bronchitis in children every year.
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath

Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause health problems to adults, too:

  • Heart disease
  • Harmful effect on heart and blood vessels
  • Lung cancer
  • Strokes
  • Coughing, chest discomfort, reduced lung function.
  • Death

Some of you might be wondering if secondhand smoke from a hookah is dangerous. It has been proven by health experts that secondhand smoke from hookahs can be a health risk for nonsmokers. The hookah contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah. Secondhand smoke from a hookah is a mixture of tobacco smoke and smoke from the fuel (usually charcoal) used to light the tobacco. It puts non-users, workers and patrons alike, at risk for the same types of diseases as secondhand smoke from cigarettes, including: cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses and adverse effects during pregnancy. Even though hookah smoke may have fruit flavors and smell good, it is just as dangerous to the smoker and others present in the room as cigarette smoke.

It is important for you to realize that there is NO risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

Will each reader take a few minutes now to think about how often you or your loved ones are exposed to secondhand smoke each day or each week? Are you sure you want to take this risk with your health? Are you willing to ask smokers to not smoke in your presence or the presence of those you love and want to protect?

If you are a smoker, think about who is with you while you smoke. Often the people you spend time with are those you love most, your family and friends.

Please take this article very seriously and talk about it with your friends and family. Here are some ideas of how to reduce the impact of secondhand smoke in your life. Some are very difficult to do, but they are very helpful to your health and the lives of those you love.

  • Set a good example: If you smoke, quit today!
  • Don’t allow smoking in your home.
  • If your loved one smokes, encourage him/her to quit.
  • Remove your children from places where smoking is allowed, even if no one is smoking while you are there.
  • Don’t allow smoking in your vehicle.
  • Choose a babysitter who does not smoke.
  • Only visit restaurants and businesses that have no-smoking policies.
  • Encourage tobacco-free childcare and schools.
  • Choose smoke free care facilities for children and aging loved ones.