Secondhand smoke is a toxic cocktail consisting of poisons and carcinogens. There are over 4000 chemical compounds in secondhand smoke; 200 of which are known to be poisonous, and upwards of 60 have been identified as carcinogens.
When a cigarette is smoked, about half of the smoke is inhaled / exhaled by the smoker and the other half floats around in the air. The combination of mainstream and sidestream smoke makes up environmental tobacco smoke.
Also known as secondhand smoke, ETS plays a part in more health problems than you might realize. The following facts point out why it is so important to have smoking bans in place. No one should be forced to breathe in air tainted with cigarette smoke.
Secondhand Smoke and Cancer
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen.
Cancers linked to passive smoking include:
- Lung cancer – 3000 nonsmokers die every year from lung cancer caused by ETS
- Nasal sinus cavity cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Bladder cancer
Some chemical compounds found in smoke only become carcinogenic after they’ve come into contact with certain enzymes found in many of the tissues of the human body.
The Risks of Secondhand Smoke to a Child
- Low birthweight for gestational age
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have an increased risk of SIDS.
- The EPA estimates that passive smoking is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 of these infections in children under 18 months annually
- Asthma – According to the EPA, between 200,000 and 1,000,000 kids with asthma have their condition worsened by secondhand smoke every year. Also, passive smoking may also be responsible for thousands of new cases of asthma every year
- Chronic respiratory symptoms such as cough and wheezing may be attributed to secondhand smoke.
- Children who breathe in secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from dental cavities, eye and nose irritation, and irritability
- Middle ear infections – exposure to ETS causes buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in 700,000 to 1.6 million physician office visits yearly
How Secondhand Smoke Can Affect the Heart
- Heart disease mortality – an estimated 35,000 to 62,000 deaths are caused from heart disease in people who are not current smokers, but who are exposed to ETS
- Acute and chronic coronary heart disease
- Passive smoking has been linked to the narrowing of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain
- Exposure to secondhand smoke hastens hardening of the arteries, a condition known as artherosclerosis
- Continual exposure to ETS has been shown to nearly double the chance of heart attack
Secondhand smoke is serious business, and should be a concern for anyone who breathes it in. Non-smokers inhaling secondhand smoke share some of the health risks smokers face. But smokers do face the worst of it – the risks of smoking are compounded by breathing cigarette smoke in for a second time.
Don’t underestimate the dangers of ETS. While secondhand smoke may not kill as many people as smoking does, it is toxic and claims thousands of lives every year around the world.
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