‘An hour a day in a room with a smoker is nearly a hundred times more likely to cause lung cancer in a non-smoker than 20 years spent in a building containing asbestos’ (Sir Richard Doll 1985)
Second-hand smoke (SHS) is also known as passive smoking, involuntary smoking or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). A simple definition would be the breathing or other people’s smoke.
Secondhand smoke can be divided into 2 types of smoke:
1.Mainstream smoke is breathed in and out by smokers
2.Sidestream smoke comes from the end of a burning cigarette or cigar and
makes up 85% of the smoke in a smoky environment. This type of smoke
contains more toxins and nicotine than mainstream smoke.
Research clearly shows that there is no safe level of exposure to passive smoking (WHO 2008). The tobacco smoke can affect non-smokers in several ways:
Coughing, headache, eye irritation, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, feeling sick, breathing problems, irregular heart beats
• Worsening of chest problems and allergies like asthma, hay fever, bronchitis and emphysema
• Increase risk of heart disease by 25-30%
• Increased risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20-30%.
• Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke can pass on the harmful gases and chemicals to their babies.
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SECONDHAND SMOKING AND CHILDREN
Research shows that children have an especially high risk of health problems if exposed to SHS. This is so because:
• They breathe in more air relative to their body weight, which means they absorb more tobacco smoke
• Their immune systems are less developed
• They have less power and ability to complain about being around SHS
• They are less able to leave smoky places themselves.
Babies and children as opposed to adults cannot choose where they live, work or play. It is thus the responsibility of adults to protect the children from SHS.
Babies regularly exposed to passive smoking have a higher risk of cot death and children are more likely to develop:
• Higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
• Asthma attack
• Chest infections
• Throat infections
• Ear infections
• ‘glue ear’
• Lower test scores in math, reading and logic
• Higher risk of heart disease
• More chances of taking up smoking themselves
For the sake of the children’s health, it is best to keep tobacco away from them.
Protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke.
Keep your home smoke-free by asking visitors to smoke outside.
Don’t let anyone smoke in the car because smoke is more concentrated in confined spaces.
Choose smoke-free leisure centres.