Second Hand Smoke Facts and Effects





What is second hand smoke?

Second hand smoke is the environmental tobacco smoke or ETS that is inhaled passively or involuntarily by an individual who is not an active smoker. Second hand smoke can come from the burning end of a lighted cigar, cigarette or pipe; it can also be the air exhaled by the smoking individual. Inhalation of second hand smoke from the environment is called passive smoking. Passive smoking can lead to serious health problems and even death. Second hand smoke is also known as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS.

Second Hand Smoke Effects

Second hand smoke contains more than 400 toxic substances, many of which have proven to be carcinogenic and can cause cancer of various body parts. These include carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, benzene, beryllium, nickel, formaldehyde and vinyl chloride. Exposure to second hand smoke can cause serious side effects to both adults as well as children.

  • According to the various studies conducted on second hand smoke, exposure to second hand smoke can lead to lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
  • Second hand smoke is also known to increase the possibility of heart diseases.

Second hand smoke and heart conditions

Second hand smoke greatly increases the possibility of death due to heart failure. Statistics showing the effects of second hand smoke are grim. Estimates suggest exposure to second hand smoke causes the deaths of nearly 35000 to 62000 non-smoking people every year.

  • Acute and chronically developed coronary heart diseases are caused by second hand smoke.
  • Passive smoking is also known to cause narrowing of carotid arteries. This hampers smooth flow of blood to the patient’s brain.
  • Exposure to second hand smoke causes artherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries are hardened.
  • Continuous exposure to second hand smoke doubles the possibility of suffering from heart attack.

Second Hand Smoke and Children

Second hand smoke also has seriously damaging effects on children. Young children are especially vulnerable to the ill effects and dangers of second hand smoke as their physical body is still developing. Children also have a higher breathing rate than the adults, and have very little control over the inner environments of their body. Children who are exposed to high levels of second hand smoke, for instance those children whose mothers smoke, are highly prone to suffer from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.

  • Exposure to second hand smoke can lead to the development of asthmatic symptoms in young children who haven’t shown any signs of asthma yet.
  • Exposure to second hand smoke also increases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Pregnant women who were exposed to smoke or smoked themselves have a higher risk of giving birth to children with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Infants and children below the age of 6 years who are frequently exposed to second hand smoke are highly prone to suffer from infections of the lower respiratory tract, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Chronic respiratory symptoms like cough and wheezing can be worsened due to second hand smoke.
  • Small children who regularly inhale second hand smoke are at a greater risk of developing dental cavities, nose and eye irritation, general irritability of moods and middle ear infections.

The Effects of Second Hand Smoke on Children with Asthma


Second hand smoke is known worsen the health conditions of children who are already suffering from asthma.

  • Exposure to second hand smoke can lead to asthma attacks as well as increase the severity of the asthmatic symptoms.
  • Exposure to second hand smoke can cause asthma in small children who haven’t shown any asthmatic symptoms in the past.
  • Asthma is by far the most common of all chronic childhood diseases that affect 1 in every 13 school-aged children on an average.

Second Hand Smoke and Pregnancy

Smoking while you are pregnant or even being around smokers can effectively harm your future babies. It effectively raises the risk of stillbirths. Other probable birth defects include physical deformities of feet or testes; an infant exposed to the harmful effects of second hand smoke may even be born with a properly developed brain. The heavy metals and DNA damaging agents present in cigarettes can permanently deform a still unborn child.

Electronic Cigarette and Second Hand Smoke

Electronic cigarettes are a great alternative to actual cigarettes as they produce no smell or smoke that might harm other people near the smoker. Although a certain vapor is emitted from an electronic cigarette, it is not really a carcinogenic smoke that people need to be away from.

Why is Second Hand Smoke worse?

Second hand smoke is actually worse than first hand smoke. This is because even if you might think that you are not a smoker and so belong to a healthier league, you might be unknowingly getting affected by the several carcinogenic substances that are present in the second hand smoke that you inhale every day.

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  •  Filed under:   Effects of Smoking




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