Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke from the lit end of the cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker.
When non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke many of the effects caused by smoking can occur.
Types of Secondhand Smoke
There appears to be a clear distinction between sidestream smoke – the unprocessed smoke from the end of the cigarette, cigar or pipe and mainstream smoke – the smoke exhaled by the smoker.
Sidestream smoke contains more carcinogens and is more toxic. It can also make its way into non-smokers lungs more easily due to the smaller size of particles.
Mainstream smoke is slightly less harmful, but is still dangerous due to the large quantity that is produced by a smoker’s exhale.
Research suggests that particles from secondhand smoke can eventually settle into dust and remain in that state for extended periods of time. Some scientists refer to these particles as thirdhand smoke. The effects these chemicals have on the body are not yet fully tested, however, researchers have discovered the presence of carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in samples of dust taken from houses of smokers.
What Are the Effects of Secondhand Smoke Exposure?
Secondhand smoking carries most of the same dangers as regular smoking. The same carcinogenic chemicals that are found in regular smoke also exist in second hand smoke. While the rate of some at which a non-smoker is exposed to smoke is lower than that of a smoker it is by no means negligible.
The extent to which secondhand smoke plays a factor in lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases amongst non-smokers is troubling to say the least.
Studies indicate that every year as many as 42,000 cases of heart disease amongst non-smokers are related to secondhand smoke. Every year 7,000 cases of lung cancer deaths amongst non-smoking adults can be attributed to secondhand smoke.
Where Can You Be Exposed?
The most disconcerting aspect of secondhand smoke is that everyone can get exposed regardless of their personal decisions and actions. Despite the government regulations, it is still quite common to come in contact with secondhand smoke in your workplace, in public spaces such as parks, restaurants or public transportation. Another major source of secondhand smoke can be your home. Because of that fact the US environmental agency has been working to encourage people to make their homes and cars a smoke-free place.
Secondhand Smoke and Children
Women who are exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy have a significantly higher chance of miscarriages, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies. Any family member of a smoker can develop health problems related to secondhand smoke.
Children are especially sensitive to the toxic chemicals found in secondhand smoke. Your child is significantly more likely to suffer from asthma, lung infections and ear infections if they frequently come in contact with tobacco smoke.
If left untreated, some of these diseases can be a serious threat to the children’s health. Secondhand smoke is also linked to many cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
What Can You Do About Secondhand Smoke?
The first thing you should consider in order to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to quit smoking. Teach your children to avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible. Avoid restaurants that allow smoking. If quitting is not an option, do not to smoke or allow smoking in your home or inside your car. This will greatly reduce the amount of secondhand smoke your family is exposed to, and decrease the chance of your children becoming smokers in the future. Reducing the places where you smoke to provide a healthier environment for your family can also be a great first step towards quitting smoking altogether.
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