Secondhand smoke offers danger for nonsmokers

| December 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

BethAnn Cameron
U.S. Army Public Health Command

Do you know if the following statements are true?
•Nonsmokers who live with smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer.
•If you have asthma, secondhand smoke can make your breathing problems worse.
•Children exposed to secondhand smoke in the home are more likely to have ear infections.
The answer is yes to all three statements.
Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar combined with the smoke breathed out by a smoker. Secondhand smoke is also known as environmental tobacco smoke, involuntary smoke or passive, side-stream smoke.

Do you know what you’re breathing?
Secondhand smoke contains more than 60 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. A few of the chemicals follow:
•Arsenic (a hazardous gas);
•Benzene (a hazardous gas);
•Beryllium (a toxic metal);
•1,3–Butadiene (a hazardous gas);
•Chromium (a metal);
•Ethylene oxide (a gas);
•Nickel (a metal); and
•Vinyl chloride (a hazardous gas).

Do you live with a smoker?
The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 3,400 nonsmokers die from lung cancer each year.
Some research also suggests that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast, nose and throat cancers, as well as leukemia.
Secondhand smoke contributes to various health problems in adults and children. It irritates the airways and makes respiratory conditions worse for people who have lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Secondhand smoke also damages a person’s heart and blood vessels and interferes with circulation, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack.
In children, secondhand smoke can cause ear infections, frequent and severe asthma attacks, shortness of breath, bronchitis and pneumonia, and increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome.
A baby who lives in a home where one or both parents smoke is more likely to have lung disease. A child with lung disease usually requires treatment in a hospital for his or her first two years of life.
Secondhand smoke also slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze and feel out of breath.

Say no to secondhand smoke
An estimated 46,000 nonsmokers die annually from heart disease because of secondhand smoke. Here are some ways to protect yourself and those you love from secondhand smoke:
•Don’t allow smoking in your home by family members, babysitters or guests. Ask them to step outside.
•Don’t allow smoking in your vehicle. If a passenger must smoke on the road, stop for a smoke break outside of the car.
•Avoid places that allow smoking. Choose smoke-free facilities for dining, child care and elder care. Request nonsmoking hotel rooms.
•If you have a partner, family member or other loved one who smokes, offer encouragement and support to help them stop smoking.

What are other challenges?
You can ask others nicely not to smoke around you or your children. Let smokers know that you’re having problems because of their smoking, such as coughing or itchy eyes. If possible, socialize outdoors.
Smoke-free areas can be tough on smokers, too, so to cope, smokers should do something different to take their mind off of smoking. Drink a glass of water. Take a walk or stretch.
If you must smoke, make sure you are in a designated smoking area. Completely put out a smoldering cigarette.
Still, try to quit smoking, if just for a day. Army Public Health Nursing offers varied programs to help you with quitting. Call 433-1498 to get a listing of smoking cessation classes.
Help prevent lung cancer and lung diseases. Take action and reduce or eliminate the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Online Resources
For more information about secondhand smoke, visit these sites:
•American Cancer Society,;
•American Lung Association,;
•Become an EX, Online Tobacco Cessation Program,;
•Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,;
•U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,;
•National Cancer Institute,;
•Quit Tobacco—Make Everyone Proud, 24-hour quit line assistance,; and
•Environmental Protection Agency,


Category: Health

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