Passive smoking refers to inhalation or exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or secondhand smoke (SHS). The term CHS comprises smoke exhaled by a person indulging in smoking and smoke released from lighted cigars, cigarettes, pipes, etc. This secondhand smoke remains in the environment for a longer period, even after extinguishing the cigarette or other tobacco products. One of the worst passive smoking facts is that it increases the risk of certain health conditions, mostly pertaining to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Facts about Passive Smoking
People who indulge in smoking are actively involved in inhalation of the tobacco fumes, hence they are active smokers. Whereas, those present around the smoker (at the time of smoking) are inhaling the hazardous smoke, even if they are not participating in the act directly. Thus, they are referred to as passive smokers. Irrespective of the smoking form, the death toll of active and passive smokers because of tobacco related diseases is increasing day-by-day.
Even though the harmful effects of cigarette smoking are severe in active smoking, passive smoking is also not safe in terms of health issues. Considering the fact that an active smoker can affect many people around, the statistics of passive smoking is much more than that of active smoking, worldwide.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4000 compounds, out of which 200 are toxic and 60 are known to have carcinogenic effects. Scientific studies conducted on environmental tobacco smoke confirm that it also consists of many carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) and toxins. ETS is the most common agent, responsible for causing indoor pollution.
Effects on Children
Infants and children are more susceptible to the medical problems of passive smoking than adults. Due to passive smoking, approximately 300,000 cases of infants and toddlers with respiratory diseases are reported every year. Passive smoking is also one of the primary reasons for increased risk of infant death syndrome (SIDS) and infectious diseases. A child after being exposed to passive smoke for more than 1 ½ years is at a higher risk of developing respiratory diseases, including bronchitis, pneumonia and croup.
Effects on Adults
In adults, the health risks of passive smoking include heart disorders, reduction of good cholesterol level, narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis), stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other tobacco related problems. Non-smoking people who are exposed to passive smoke have 20-30 percent increased risk of developing lung cancer than others who are not passive smokers.
Serious passive smoking effects include increasing the risk of breast cancer by about 70 percent, among women who are in the pre-menopausal stages. Pregnant, non smoking women who are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of having miscarriages, premature delivery and stillbirth, than others who are not exposed to such kind of smoke. Also, passive smoke is believed to cause certain long-term health effects to an unborn child.
The dangers of passive smoking are not less than that of active smoking. Hence, it is high time that we should take serious steps against smoking to benefit the public health as a whole. The impact of smoking on the health of other people is the main reason for smoking bans in workplaces, public places and other enclosed environment, including bars, dining halls, restaurants, etc. Heavy fines should be imposed on people who dare to smoke in such smoking banned areas.
The most commonly affected people with passive smoking are the spouse and children of active smokers. The term 'third hand smoke' refers to smoke that persists in an environment, wherein there is no trace of direct cigarette smoke and SHS. Nevertheless, studies are ongoing to determine the effects of third hand smoke on people.
A message to every smoker is to stop smoking and reduce the health concerns of other people who are around him or her. In case of individuals who are addicted to smoking and cannot give up this unhealthy habit, it is their responsibility to prevent other people from getting exposed to passive smoke.