Dangers of Secondhand Smoking

Dangers of Secondhand Smoking

“Smoking is injurious to health”. This is the statutory warning we all have grown up reading on not only the packets of cigarette but also on the television screen whenever any character in a program is shown smoking. This signifies the importance of educating people against smoking. It is a well-established fact, talking in layman terms, that there are plenty of critical diseases such as cancer, respiratory problems and many more that are primarily caused by smoking.

Surprisingly, doctors categorically say that more at risk are the people around the smokers than the person actually smoking. The basic reason behind this phenomenon is that while the smoker inhales the smoke through a filter, in case of a cigarette while the people around him inhale the smoke emitted by him without any filter. The purpose of giving filter in a cigarette is to allow the smokers a comparatively safe inhaling of smoke. People who inhale the smoke emitted by the smoker are called passive smoker.  A passive smoker is a person who inhales smoke emitted from the other person’s tobacco smoke. While more stress is given on motivating people to abandon the habit of smoking, much effort is needed to educate smokers to consider the health of others around them. A few years back the government in India has put a blanket ban on smoking in public places only to prevent common man from becoming passive smoker while moving in public places.

One of the worst impacts of passive smoking can be understood by the fact that a smoker can be a reason of respiratory problem to a child still to be born just because the pregnant lady would be inhaling the smoke exhaled by her life partner. Even the infants and tiny tots can be badly affected by the habit of smoking by their parents and other close relatives. Second-hand smoke has been confirmed as a cause of lung cancer in humans by several leading health authorities. Passive smoking increases the risk of respiratory illness in children including asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. If you have never smoked but you are around the people who smoke, you are at an increased rate of risk of being affected with tobacco-related diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.  While in India smoking in public is not allowed by law, whereas there are countries who do not allow people smoking while they are on a drive with children below 18 years of age in their car.

Tobacco smoke inside a room tends to hang in mid-air rather than disperse. Hot smoke rises, but tobacco smoke cools rapidly, which stops its upward climb. Since the smoke is heavier than the air, the smoke starts to descend.

According to studies, a person who smokes heavily indoors creates a low-lying smoke cloud that other householders have no choice but to breathe. Tobacco smoke contains around 7,000 chemicals, made up of particles and gases, many of which are known to cause cancer. Second-hand smoke has been confirmed as a cause of lung cancer in humans by several leading health authorities. Compounds such as ammonia, sulfur and formaldehyde irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

Special care needs to be taken during the period of pregnancy. Health risks for mothers who smoke during pregnancy include increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight. There are more risks of passive smoking to the infants such as sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents. As far as complications during the birth are concerned, a non-smoking pregnant woman is more likely to give birth earlier, and to a baby with a slightly lower birth weight if she is exposed to second-hand smoke in the home.

Every smoker can quit smoking just by considering the health of his family and loved ones over his habit of smoking.

Dr. Anshuman Kumar I Director – surgical Oncology & Clinical Lead – Academic Services I Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

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