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Health Risk: Secondhand Smoke
June 23, 2009
In 30 minutes, three cigarettes create more pollution than a diesel car. Find out the facts about secondhand smoke before you or your family step into a smoky bar or restaurant.
Do you smoke? Do you know someone that does? Secondhand smoke has a bigger impact than just the smell. Find out the facts and how it impacts your risk for heart disease and cancer.
What is secondhand smoke?
When you are near a person who is smoking, you are breathing secondhand smoke and inhaling the same dangerous chemicals as he or she does. It is a combination of smoke from the burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. When you breathe this secondhand smoke, it is like you are smoking. No matter your age or health status, secondhand smoke is dangerous: it can make you sick and some of the diseases that it causes can even kill you. The chemicals found in secondhand smoke hurt your health and many are known to cause cancer.
Important facts about secondhand smoke
- Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can interfere with normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular system, which increases your risk for a heart attack
- Separate non-smoking sections don’t completely protect you from secondhand smoke; neither does filtering the air or opening a window
- Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work or home increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30% and heart disease by 25-30%
- Children are more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and severe asthma from being around smoke
- Secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year
- Breathing secondhand smoke is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Protect yourself and your family
Keep in mind that it’s possible to breathe secondhand smoke in restaurants, around the doorways of buildings, and even sometimes at work. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with heart or breathing problems should be especially careful. Some effects are temporary, but others are permanent.
What you can do
- Commit to a smoke-free home and car
- Choose restaurants and bars that are smoke-free
- Let business owners know that non-smoking sections are not good enough
- Use a smoke-free child care center and teach your kids to stay away from secondhand smoke
- Avoid taking your family to public places that allow smoking
For information on quitting tobacco usage, including information on smoking cessation and other specialized programs, log in to MyHumana and visit the Tobacco Cessation Condition Center.
About the author
Amy is a wellness strategy manager in Humana’s Health Guidance Organization. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and a graduate degree in media communications and management from Webster University.