Effects of Secondary Smoking


While the world health organization has termed tobacco a “gradual killer”, the number of tobacco consumer continues to grow rapidly. Sad as it may sound, this killer not only secretly kills the person smoking the tobacco but also any person around who inadvertently inhales the same.

Second Hand Smoke (SHS)

The effects of secondary smoking are immense. The process of involuntarily participating in somebody else’s way of easily ‘getting high’ is called Passive Smoking or Second Hand Smoke (SHS). But do you know that there are two types of passive smoking?

a) Mainstream smoke – the smoke exhaled by a smoker
b) Sidestream smoke – smoke from the lighted end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar.

So, even though we may think of these as the same, they aren’t.

Sidestream smoke has higher concentrations of cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) and is more toxic than mainstream smoke. And, it also has smaller particles than mainstream smoke which can easily make their way into lungs & body’s cells. So, the more SHS you breathe, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals will be in your body.

Smoking isn’t just suicide, it’s murder!

A non-smoker, who breathes in SHS, takes in nicotine and toxic chemicals the same way as a smoker will do. To explain it in a layman’s words, let me give you a very simple rational.

After just minutes of exposure to SHS, his immune system is weekend, blood thickened and his heart beats faster. Imagine that by a day, week, a year and he may as well be smoking himself.

Why should you be worried?

The risks of active smoking are well known. However, I am sure some of the little known effects may inspire you to think again.

  • Passive smoking is a cause of sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI), which includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents.
  • A child who lives in a smoking household for the first 18 months of their life has an increased risk of developing a range of respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
  • Passive smoking can seriously affect the developing fetus in case of pregnant women.
  • People who have never smoked and live with people who do smoke are at increased risk of a range of tobacco-related diseases like Lung Cancer or heart disease and stroke.

Apart from Lung Cancer, smoking also increases the risk of at least 13 other cancers including cancers of the larynx (voice box), oesophagus (gullet), mouth and pharynx (throat), bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, ovary, nose and sinus, and some types of leukaemia.

And these are just a few sad arguments to tell you how serious could things turn out to be if the habit is not curbed at the right time. But I strongly believe that if a person can’t give up smoking for their own health, then the health of their family or people close to him could be a stronger motivation.

Need more alarming reasons?

Years of researches by several leading health authorities have confirmed passive smoking as a cause of Lung
Cancer. Not just that, having the biggest mortality rate among all kinds of cancers, this disease is the most common cause of cancer-related death in the world.

Globally, every year 1.8 million people fall prey to it out of which 1.6 million die because of it. In India, the number of new cases increased from around 65,000 in 2009 to 90,000 in 2013, registering 15-20% increase annually. This increase is worrisome in countries where people hesitate to consult doctors at the earliest or do not have access to them.

Moreover, there is also some evidence suggesting it might be linked to lymphoma, leukemia, and brain tumors in children, and cancers of the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast in adults.

When should you see a doctor?

We all know that the survival rate from lung cancer is better the earlier it is caught. But we also must realize that the need to understand the early symptoms is important for both smokers & non- smokers alike.

Let us now have a quick look at some of the most common signs.

  • A lot of times people dismiss or adapt to a chronic cough attributing it to something else and that’s where they go wrong. A long standing cough that is not relieved despite treatment for more than four weeks is one of the known signs and should be a reason enough for a person to undergo several tests related to lung problems.
  • Coughing up Blood is a very common symptom though you may notice only a small amount of blood tinged phlegm when you cough.
  • Repeated episodes of Bronchitis or Pneumonia.
  • Shortness of breath with activity which is so often confused with getting old or being out of shape
  • Any pain in your Shoulder, Back, Chest, or Arm that doesn’t seem to be related to an injury.
  • Abnormal and general symptoms like knee pain fatigue, decreased appetite, unexplained weight loss , or even depression

You know smoking harms your own health, but how often do you stop to think about how smoking affects your loved ones? Kill you habit today, before it kill your dear ones tomorrow.

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Dr Arvind Kuamr

Image Courtesy – Gulf News.


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