No one aims to harm their family intentionally by smoking. However, steps taken to lessen their risk of exposure just might not be enough.
You know smoking is bad for your health. Maybe you want to quit, or maybe you just aren’t there yet. Whatever the case, you want to do all you can to ensure your habits don’t impact your loved ones. Second-hand smoke, or the smoke given off by a burning cigarette (as well as smoke exhaled by smokers) is dangerous to those around you. In fact, the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, is exposure to second-hand smoke.
The Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke
Over 450,000 people die every year in the United States due to smoking. Thousands more die each year due to exposure to second-hand smoke. The dangers of breathing cigarette smoke are similar to those caused by smoking directly. Heart disease, lung cancer, breathing problems, and stroke have all been linked to second-hand smoke exposure. In children, it’s been linked to severe asthma, allergies, weak lungs, smaller babies in pregnant mothers who breathe second-hand smoke, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even if you don’t smoke around your loved ones often, the Surgeon General warns that there is no safe level for second-hand smoke exposure.
Second-hand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, at least 250 of which have been proven to cause cancer and other diseases, according to The American Cancer Society and Smoke Free.
Protecting Those you Love
While your smoking will continue to put family members at some level of risk, there are ways you can reduce the chances of causing chronic or life-threatening health conditions in those around you.
Smoke outdoors: First of all, do not smoke inside your home. This is one of the single most important things you can do to protect your family. If you must smoke, do so outdoors and as far away from the door as possible.
Do not smoke in vehicles: Don’t smoke inside automobiles, even if you have the windows open. Not all smoke will escape, and others are especially susceptible to smoke inhalation in such a small enclosed area.
Remove outerwear after smoking: Smoke residue can cling to clothing and hair, even after you’ve smoked outdoors. This smoke can enter your home’s atmosphere, and it can be breathed in directly when loved ones hug or get close to you. Remove coats and hats after stepping outdoors to smoke and keep them somewhere away from the main living area. Even better, shower and put on a fresh change of clothes after smoking.
Do not hold infants after smoking: Third-hand smoke exposure is especially dangerous for infants and young children. If you cannot change clothes and/or take a shower immediately after lighting up, do not hold infants or allow young children to hug or sit with you until you can.
Quit: Unfortunately, even with your best efforts, there is no way to truly 100% protect your family unless you give up tobacco products altogether. It is not practical to shower and change clothing after every cigarette. Further, if other family members wish to go outdoors during your smoke breaks, they may still be exposed to second-hand smoke. Quitting is the only real solution for the protection of your health, as well as the health of those you love. While it may be a challenge, there are numerous stop smoking aids out there to help you kick the habit if you wish to do so. Talk to your doctor, or come up with a plan to help you quit.