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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Category: Smoking and Addiction

Article Title: Hazards of Second Hand Smoking

It is well established that smoking is dangerous for health. It includes addictive substance i.e. nicotine which alters brain chemistry of the addict. Everyone knows that smoking is responsible for fatal diseases like cancer; respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and tuberculosis; cardiovascular diseases such as peripheral arterial disease, coronary heart disease, stroke and abdominal aortic aneurysm; reproductive problems such as pregnancy complications, birth defects and sexual dysfunctions; diabetes; immune system diseases; and eye diseases. However, comparatively few people are aware that the smoke which smokers release can even become more dangerous for those who don’t smoke.

Dating back to 2013 when Willing Ways Islamabad conducted seminar on Smoking and Addiction, it was discussed and then published in the form of article showing that the consequences of addiction are not only obvious for the smoker but also on his/her surroundings. The question arises here is how this could be possible if one person is smoking then the people around him who even don’t smoke are in danger. We describe here a process called second hand smoking through which the substance becomes hazardous for the society around smoker. Second hand smoke is defined as the smoke coming out of the smoker’s breathe which includes the residual substance which doesn’t reach deeply into the smoker’s lungs. In addition it includes the dirty air full of carbon di oxide (CO2) which comes out after absorption of fresh air oxygen into the lungs. All this combined with residual smoke coming out of cigarette, pipe or cigar is mixed in the air and thus reaches to people around the smoker. Even this residual material becomes more dangerous than the addictive substance itself.

Up till now many people think that smoking is not dangerous for health. This is more common belief in those who already smoke. We can find many people around us who smoke because it is considered socially acceptable in our culture. If the smoking is very common around us then we are more vulnerable to get its negative health consequences on us. This is the reason why it is prohibited to smoke in various public places. Thus the general public gets safe but the loved ones of smokers are consuming this waste smoke on daily basis. Particularly it effects children, family members of the smokers and those who live nearby. Even if smokers take cautions about where they lit up the cigars so their children in other room may not get affected but since this smoke travels through air it can reach to the other room in that house as well. When children inhale this smoke ridden air then it affects their internal biological system more than adults because they are in developing stage. How this smoke has adverse effects is discussed in detail here.

Elements of Second-hand smoke:

It contains the burning fumes coming out of cigarette and the deoxygenated air breathed out by the smoker. This smoke consists of around 7000 chemicals out of which many substances are toxic and some are carcinogenic. According to the estimates of US department of health and human services, 2.5 million people died by inhaling this second-hand smoke during the years 1964 to 2014.

Ruthless effects on children:

If children are exposed to second-hand smoke the risk of developing infectious diseases increases for them. It produces diseases such as respiratory problems, asthma, pneumonia, cough, and ear infections. Other health problems in children increase e.g., they get sick more often, the growth rate of their lungs decreases and they may develop bronchitis, they have severe asthma attacks which are life threatening, and they seek more surgical procedures/insulting tubes for ear drainage or fluids.

Pregnancy and second-hand smoke:

The ill effects on children even starts from pregnancy. If a mother smokes or lives around people who smoke, these substances reach to the foetus through mother’s blood circulation. The developing baby can have pre-mature birth, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and developmental disorders such as intellectual disability, ADHD and learning difficulties.

Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome—SIDC:

A very common danger to children through second-hand smoke is reported to be SIDC. In this condition a sudden death of infant occurs during initial year of life without any apparent reason. A report of the surgeon general by US department of health and human services indicated that SIDC is found to be associated with greater amount of nicotine and cotinine which are essential components of Second-hand smoke. These chemicals when inhaled by an infant, directly interfere with brain areas controlling respiratory functions. It also shows that the risk of SIDC increases in infants if their mothers smoke before or after the birth of child.

Risk of Respiratory diseases:

It has been found that lung cancers also occur in people who never smoked. This is because they share the air exhaled by smokers. A report on health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke presented by National Centre for Chronic disease Prevention and Health Promotion revealed that the risk of lung cancer was increased by 20-30% in non-smokers who were exposed to smoke. Health department also reported 7300 yearly deaths caused by lung cancer in non-smokers. This is because they are inhaling similar carcinogenic agents that damage cells in smokers which initiates the growth of cancer cells. It is also noteworthy that for the higher duration a person is exposed to second-hand smoke, the higher the risk of developing lung cancer.

Risk of Cardiovascular diseases:

US office on smoking and health reported yearly 34000 deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases due to exposure of second-hand smoke. In settings such as work place and family gatherings if people are exposed to smoking then it increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke up to 25-30%. Reported deaths in USA during the year 2014 which particularly occurred in non-smokers exceeded from 8000. This happens because the second hand smoke adversely influences our functioning of blood vascular system. It damages the walls of blood vessels, increases thickness or adhesiveness of blood and thus increases chances of heart attack and stroke. Even a short-term exposure can be dangerous for those already suffering from hear diseases.

Tips on how to evade ill effects of second-hand smoke:

At first hand you can take quick steps such as

• Change the place where you observe any person who is smoking.

• If this is not immediately possible for you than ask the person to either smoke outside or stop smoking.

• If you have a loved one who smokes, do convince them to quit smoking.

• Those who smoke must take into account that people around them are being affected so if they can’t avoid cigarette at least they should go as far away as possible especially they shouldn’t smoke in front of their children.

• If you don’t have any family member who smokes then you are lucky enough but you should also prevent anyone else smoking inside your house or nearby area.

• Prohibit anyone who smokes in your car or shut down windows to avoid outside smoke.

• Always confirm that your surroundings, schools or public places are tobacco-free.

• Chose places and restaurants which prohibit smoking.

• Specially protect your children if you want to keep them away from respiratory, heart and ENT infections.

• Take special care and don’t smoke if you are pregnant or sitting around a new born.

• Precautions must be taken to avoid inevitable consequences of second-hand smoke.

Do prevent yourself and your loved ones from smoking and second-hand smoke because life is precious and living with a chronic disease is a real curse for anyone.

Article sources:

Willing ways

Centres for disease control and prevention, USA


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

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