Hazards of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke poses serious harm even to non-smokers. Secondhand or passive smoking refers to the involuntary smoking or inhalation of tobacco smoke. Smoke from this process usually contains a mixture of smoke given off by a tobacco product coupled with the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. Tobacco smoke may stay in the air for hours after cigarettes have been consumed and it can be involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers. Secondhand smoke may seem harmless, but it can actually contain many toxic chemicals that are carcinogenic or and other substances that can cause cancer.

There are actually two kinds of secondhand smoke, namely the side stream and mainstream smoke. The former is the smoke that may drift in the air from a burning tobacco product. The latter, on the other hand, is the smoke that a smoker exhales. Regardless of its term, these types of second hand smoke contain 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are carcinogenic. Formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium, benzene, and ethylene oxide are some of the substances that may cause cancer. These dangerous components may stay in the air for hours and may harm one’s health in many ways.

Shown below are some of the chemicals emitted during cigarette smoking:

Ammonia – This chemical may irritate the lungs.
Carbon Monoxide – This chemical causes breathing difficulties by reducing oxygen levels in the blood.
Methanol – This chemical is highly toxic when inhaled or swallowed.
Hydrogen Cyanide – This chemical interferes with proper respiratory functions.

In addition to these negative effects, studies show that babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have heightened risks to be born prematurely and with low birth weight. Children whose parents smoke may have twice the risk of developing getting asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, and allergies. Quiting smoking may improve the health of smokers and the people around them. Secondhand smoke may also trigger asthma attacks, aggravate allergies, and weaken the immune system, making one vulnerable to colds and other respiratory ailments like bronchitis and pneumonia.

Secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone, but it is especially hard on children. A study conducted by the American Lung Association revealed that secondhand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 cases of pneumonia and bronchitis of children under 18 months of age yearly. About 15,000 of these infants need to hospitalized. Because of the health effects of secondhand smoke, smokers are advised to refrain from smoking near other people especially children and pregnant women. Cigarette particles may stick to clothing, smokers should change clothes before holding or hugging children.

Individuals who are having a hard time cutting the habit may try using quit smoking products that are now available in the market. These products, however, cannot do all the work. The best way to quit smoking is to avoid being with smokers or being near establishments that sell tobacco products. no doubt, quitting the habit entails determination, discipline, and commitment. Using these products, however, can help a smoker cut the habit by making them more comfortable and complacent to adjust to life without cigarettes. Many ‘quit smoking products’ are available over the counter, it is best to seek the approval of health professionals to clarify side effects and drug interactions that may be developed while under medication. With the right tools and attitude, quitting smoking and reducing the health effects of secondhand smoke can be done with ease.