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Second hand smoke

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Inhaling secondhand smoke could be more dangerous than smoking. So what is secondhand smoke (SHS)?

Secondhand smoke is of two types:

Side stream smoke- the smoke that comes out from the lighted end of the cigarette

Mainstream smoke- the smoke that is puffed out by a smoker

In both the cases, the smoke results from burning of tobacco.

Why is secondhand smoke deadly?

It’s a fact that secondhand smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals including carcinogenic compounds, capable of causing several health complications in an individual. We sort out some of the most dangerous toxic chemicals from vast composition in the following points:

  • Ammonia
  • Lead
  • Formaldehyde
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nickel
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Polonium
  • Benzo alpha pyrene
  • Cyanide
  • Lead
  • Butane

These chemicals not only affect the passive smoker but remain suspended in the air for a long time which gradually affects the health to a large extent.

Effects of Secondhand Smoke on Human Beings

Respiratory Diseases

Getting exposed to secondhand smoke aggravates health of people suffering from respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema etc. It can also induce asthma and COPD, give rise to shortness of breath, sneezing, coughing, irritation in nose and various respiratory infections, like pneumonia. Children are more susceptible to it.

Heart Diseases

When non smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, the toxic chemicals are completely detrimental to cardiovascular health. It affects the heart and the blood vessels. Exposure to SHS increases risk of heart attack by 25-30%.

Lung Cancer

Inhaling the potent carcinogenic compounds present in secondhand smoke is one of the most common reasons behind lung cancer in adults. Adults become susceptible to lung cancer by 20-30% more on getting exposed to secondhand smoke.

During Pregnancy

One of the reasons behind miscarriages, stillbirth, placenta previa and ectopic pregnancy is getting exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy. Oxygen supply to the unborn baby is decreased, the heart rate increases and there are high chances of premature birth or low body weight of the baby.

Is there any safe limit for secondhand smoke exposure?

There’s no as such safe level for SHS. However, non smokers who mingle or spend time with smokers are more vulnerable to the risks associated with it.

How to prevent getting exposed to secondhand smoke?

Not only the smoker is risking his/her health but the non-smoker is also pushed to the mouth of dangerous health complications. Therefore, you must ensure your safety by either following or implementing the rules listed below:

  • Make sure you don’t stay within the vicinity of those people, including your friends and family when they are smoking
  • Encourage them to use the smoking zone strictly inside pubs or while at work place
  • Under unavoidable circumstances, make sure you use a mask to cover your mouth and nose to prevent inhaling the smoke
  • Try to create awareness in your groups to quit smoking by educating them about the health hazards.

Considering the dangerous consequences of secondhand smoke, we should consciously try to avoid getting exposed to it at every level. Therefore by all means, try to quit smoking and stop endangering the lives of people around you.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015

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