Second Hand Smoke refers to tobacco smoke which is inhaled by people other than the actual smoker. It is often known as ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) and inhaling this is commonly referred to as passive smoking.
Concerns about the dangers of second hand smoke have been a driving force behind legislation around the world to create smoke free workplaces and indoor public spaces like restaurants and bars. As the greatest dangers are to children, there are even places where smoking in cars is prohibited when carrying passengers below a specified age.
Second hand smoke is made up of two parts:
- Mainstream smoke – that which is exhaled by the smoker.
- Sidestream smoke – that which comes directly from the lighted end of a cigarette.
In fact the sidesteam smoke is more dangerous than the mainstream smoke because it has higher concentrations of cancer causing substances. Tobacco smoke contains several thousand chemicals of which about 250 are harmful with 69 of these being linked to cancer.
So what damage can second hand smoke do? Actually the effects are much the same as smoking directly but with additional issues for children, these include:
- Cancer – Particularly lung cancer and breast cancer.
- Heart Disease – Can increase risk by 60%.
- Lungs – Increased risk of asthma.
- Hearing – Higher risk of ear infections and hearing loss.
Risks to Children include:
- Lower birth weight and birth defects if mother exposed during pregnancy.
- Greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- Worsening of asthma and other allergies.
- More lung infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Impaired lung growth and functioning.
- Middle ear infections.
- Even an increase in tooth decay.
How To Avoid Second Hand Smoke
You might think that separating smokers and non-smokers or ventilating buildings will help but it is not that easy. The only way of fully protecting non-smokers is to prevent all smoking in a building as there is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke.
This also avoids another problem – Third Hand Smoke. This refers to smoke particles that have been shown to settle on surfaces and be in dust for a long time after the smoke is gone (can last months). The risks of this are not yet clear but the greatest danger is to babies and young children who often put things into their month.
If all this makes you wonder how to stop smoking you can look at quitting smoking aids on the market or ways to curb the desire to smoke like quit smoking hypnosis. Alternatively if you might consider switching to a vapor cigarette (or electronic cigarette) as these give much of the pleasure of smoking without emitting any harmful substances and damaging those around you. They also allow you to “smoke” where real smoking is banned.