By Dr Ankit Bansal
While the perils of smoking tobacco are amply highlighted, we often tend to underestimate the dangers of passive smoking. Second-hand smoke is a toxic combination of the smoke coming from the burning cigarette butt and the mainstream smoke being exhaled by the smoker. Do you know that this secondhand smoke contains more harmful substances than directly inhaled smoke and may therefore be deadlier than actual smoking? Studies have indicated that long-term exposure to passive smoke can be as dangerous (if not more) as smoking tobacco directly.
According to statistics, cohabiting with a smoker leads to a 15 per cent greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Further, it is found that exposure to passive smoking for 10 years increased the rate of hypertension to a substantial 17 per cent, irrespective of the gender. Children are particularly susceptible to the threats of secondhand smoke as they have under developed lungs and they breathe at a faster rate than adults.
According to estimates, second-hand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among American nonsmokers each year. While we do not have such estimates for India, the numbers ought to be significant.
Here are other ill effects of secondhand smoke:
1. Secondhand smoke often causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
2. Smoking during pregnancy leads to more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.
3. Some health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
4. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30 per cent.
Yet, one can always avoid the above predicament through these following steps:
Avoid smoking at home; you would want your little ones to flourish and not suffer.
1. Keep a clear rule that visitors should smoke cigarettes outdoors.
2. Make sure your car is smoke-free, so your kids shouldn’t be subjected to such toxic habits.
3. Don’t allow smoking in any enclosed space where people who do not smoke spend time.
4. Make sure that people who look after your children provide a smoke-free environment.
(The writer is Consultant-Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur.)