The Harmful Effects of Secondhand Smoke

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Smoking kills. That is a fact.

And we get information on the harmful effects of smoking everywhere – from television to wall posters to cigarette packages. But non-smokers should also be forewarned because they may be inhaling as much nicotine and tar as a smoker does.

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke or ETS, is the tobacco smoke inhaled by a non-smoker. Secondhand smoke is very harmful because it contains almost 40 carcinogenic substances in addition to numerous toxins that go directly to a non-smoker’s lungs.

Secondhand smoke has a string of adverse effects for both the young and old. Young children are especially vulnerable because they breathe more air relative to body weight. They are also less able to complain because of their age when they feel limited and ignored. Their immune systems are also relatively less protective.

For children under 18, the following are just few of the adverse health effects that secondhand smoke brings:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Additional episodes of asthma
  • Decreased lung function
  • Meningococcal infections
  • More fluid in the middle ear
  • Upper respiratory tract irritation
  • Lower respiratory tract infections
  • Severe asthmatic symptoms
  • Minimized flow of oxygen to tissues
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Cancers and leukemia
  • Slower growth
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Adverse neurobehavioral effects
  • Higher cholesterol levels and heart disease

Pregnant women should not only quit smoking, but also avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke has different adverse effects on pregnant women, especially to the fetus. It deprives the fetus of vital nutrients and oxygen, which could lead to the following conditions:

  • Intrauterine growth retardation or low birth weight
  • Behavioral problems
  • Deficient intellectual ability
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Reduced lung function
  • Pregnancy complications

So, the next time the person next to you lights a cigarette, always politely assert your right to clean and fresh air. Stay away from smoking areas. Keep in mind that you have every right to protect your health in as much as they have their right to destroy their health.