Is Secondhand Smoke Dangerous?


[dropcap font=”0″]O[/dropcap]f course it is dangerous ! A month or so ago, I became a victim of the secondhand smoke (SHS). Every morning after our daily workouts, a group of us health enthusiasts, that’s what we thought we were, would crowd into a teashop. The shop is very famous for the tea it serves. The shop is small and the space is very confined and above all ventilation is poor. It is so confined that it could accommodate only about thirty sitting on low stools, almost rubbing shoulders with the customers on your left and right. The whole place was shrouded in cigarette smoke as nearly half of the customers were smoking. I must have been exposed to the SHS to a great extent, because I started coughing incessantly, especially at nights. With the little medical knowledge that I have, I thought I was headed for big trouble. However I noticed the symptoms were similar to those when I was smoking, so I stopped going to the tea shop to avoid further exposure to SHS. Within a few days the coughing was gone. During that period I managed to write an article titled “ Should Smoking at Public Places be Banned?”
In fact (SHS) is worse than smoking itself, because you are involuntarily exposed to the dangers of the tobacco smoke. Most people in our country are either not aware of the hazards that the SHS can cause, or do not take it seriously, though they are aware. It must be because, they do not really know the whole truth about SHS, or is it the way of life of our people, who enjoy the company of others, to tolerate the health damaging SHS, just to be in their company. These non-smokers in the company of smokers are exposed to involuntary smoking or passive smoking. You will see people smoking at crowded public places, such as the teashops, restaurants, even in enclosed air-conditioned places, and in parks during morning workouts. The presence of non-smokers among them are regular sights and are taken for granted that there was nothing wrong with that. It’s not so! You will find out why, if you will patiently continue reading..

What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke (SHS), also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a mixture of the following two types:-
1.    Sidestream smoke– smoke from lighted end of cigarettes, pipes and cigars.
2.     Mainsteam smoke– smoke exhaled by a smoker.
The two are not the same. The sidestream smoke has higher concentration of the carcinogens, the cancer causing agents than the mainstream smoke and is therefore more toxic. Furthermore, the former has smaller particles than the latter that can penetrate more easily into the lungs and the body’cells. When non-smokers are exposed to the SHS, they breathe in the nicotine and toxic agents the same way the smokers did. The more you take in these harmful chemicals, the more you are at risk as the smokers themselves.
The SHS is a mixture of gas and particles and contains over 7,000 different chemical compounds, of which about 250 are known to be harmful and at least 69 can cause cancer. Researchers had linked SHS to lung cancers and it might also be linked to other types of cancers in children and adults. Parents who smoke during pregnancy can cause a rare type of lung cancer in the baby. It all started while the baby is still in the uterus. This risk is twice as high if only one parent smoked, but it is five times as high if both parents smoked, than in the babies of the non-smokers.

Dangers of the SHS
SHS can harm people in many ways. All the diseases that can be caused by direct tobacco smoke to the active smokers can be caused by SHS to the passive smokers. As I had repeatedly mentioned smoking-related diseases in my previous articles, I will spare the readers from unnecessary burden by not repeating them here. Apart from those there are other detrimental effects, such as:-
1.    Some studies have linked SHS to mental and emotional changes.
2.     A Chinese study has suggested that SHS exposure is linked to increased dementia syndrome.
3.     A UK study reports that women exposed to SHS during pregnancy are at greater risk for symptoms of depression.
4.     There may be link between SHS and breast cancer, but researchers had not established that fact definitely.
5.    The US Surgeon General’s reports outlined the dangers of tobacco and SHS as follows:-
°    SHS kills children and adults who do not smoke.
°    SHS causes disease in children and adults who do not smoke.
°     Exposure to SHS while pregnant increases the chance that a woman will have: miscarriage, stillborn birth, low-birth weight baby, and other pregnancy and delivery problems
°    Babies and children exposed to SHS are at an increased risk of: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), upper respiratory and lungs infections, ear infections, severe and frequent asthma attacks
°    Smoking by parents can cause wheezing, coughing, bronchitis, pneumonia and slow lung growth in children.
°     SHS can cause heart diseases , stokes and heart attacks.
°    SHS causes lung cancer in people who never smoke.
°    Chemicals in tobacco smoke damage sperm, which might reduce fertility and harm fetal development.
°    Any exposure to SHS is harmful.
°    On average, children are exposed to SHS more than the non-smoking adults.
( This is the most comprehensive report I could find, but there may be better reports.)

Where is SHS a problem?
The four places where you are most exposed to SHS and should be concerned about are:-

At work
The work places are major sources of exposure to SHS for adults and has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and lung cancer among adult nonsmoker’s. Smoke-free workplace is the only solution to this problem.

In public places
Everyone can be exposed to SHS in public places, such as: restaurants, cafes (teashops in our case), shopping centers, public transportations, schools, and daycare centers. Smoking should be banned in those places.

At home
Any family member can develop health problems at home, where there is smoking in the house due to exposure to SHS. So a home should be a smoke-free zone. It is the most important thing that you can do for your family.

In the car
If someone smokes in the car the poison can build up quickly as the space is too confined. This can harm everyone in the car especially the children. Should not smoke in the car at all.

Thirdhand smoke
This term may sound new to some. Research had found that particles from secondhand tobacco smoke can settle into dusts and onto surfaces and remained there long after the smoke is gone. Researcher called them thirdhand smoke. As they are found to contain carcinogens that can cause lung cancer, the thirdhand smokes impose hazards to the health.

This article will be the last one on the subject of smoking, for the time being, as I am convince, I had managed to get the message through, that smoking is bad for your health. However, if necessary I may write some more about it. At this point I would like to take the opportunity to explain my intention in writing these articles. My sole intention is to make the public aware of the dangers of smoking. Not only to the smokers themselves but also to the society at large and most importantly to their immediate family members. In writing these articles, I made use of some facts and data available on the Internet and in some places I had to mention them ditto to the original, when unavoidable, not to miss the point. However, as I am not a medical professional, I had to read again and again until I understand the subject and rewrote it in the way I understood, so that other laypersons like me can understand. If there should be any discrepancy, it is only me to blame and sincerely hope the readers would be understanding and forgive me.
Looking forward to a smoke-free environment.   

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