How harmful is secondhand smoking?

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30 Jul 2016 - General

What is second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke is a mix of smoke from a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar, plus smoke blown into the air by the person smoking.

How harmful is second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke is poisonous. It has over 4000 chemicals, including 50 that can cause cancer. Some of the chemicals in second-hand smoke are:

  • Benzo[a]pyrene – found in coal tar, one of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Formaldehyde – used to preserve dead animals.
  • Hydrogen cyanide – used in rat poison.
  • Ammonia – used to clean floors and toilets.

Two thirds of the smoke from a burning cigarette that enters into the air can be inhaled by anyone in that area.

Second-hand smoke causes over 100 deaths each year in British Columbia. It keeps many more people from leading healthy lives.

How does second-hand smoke harm your health?

People who do not smoke and who are exposed regularly to the toxic chemicals in second-hand smoke can suffer serious and life-threatening health concerns. In the long term, people exposed to second-hand smoke have a greater risk of suffering from:

  • lung cancer;
  • nasal sinus cancer;
  • heart disease;
  • stroke; and
  • breathing problems, such as increased coughing, wheezing, pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma.

People who do not smoke will suffer from the effects of breathing second-hand smoke right away. In as little as 8 to 20 minutes physical reactions can occur that are linked to heart disease and stroke. These reactions include increased heart rate, less oxygen to the heart, and constricted blood vessels that increase blood pressure and make the heart work harder.

Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke can have a greater risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and babies with low birth weight.