Passive Smoking: Injurious to my health

The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of second hand smoke is through 100 per cent smoke-free environments

Smoking"Your smoking is injurious to my health Dad, please do not fill the room with this dirty air, it suffocates me. Please give me a room to breathe." Have you ever thought about the child's agony when his dad lights up that poison stick and smokes in pleasure?

How often have you heard the silence of your one-year-old darling daughter? "Yes, I do care doctor, that's why I smoke outside in the balcony when my child is in the bedroom. I avoid smoking in front of my kids". This is the usual explanation I get from my well-educated patients. Sometimes I realise how less observant we are to our own behaviours. We smoke outside, agreed; but how many of us wash our hands and clean our teeth before we hold our little children. How many of us still hear voices murmuring, "Dad, please do not touch and kiss me with these stinking hands and smoke-filled lips."

But are we justified in smoking inside our homes, and exposing our wife and innocent children to thousands of poisons with every puff that we inhale. Certainly not. We all work in "Smoke-free offices", and have learnt to go out and smoke. Fortunately, the government has also taken disciplinary actions for "smoking in public places", which has further led to an awakening among smokers to be cautious in public places and workplaces while lighting up their stick. The government has, unfortunately, not touched the situations prevailing at homes, which needs to be addressed seriously.

What is second hand smoking?

First of all, let's understand what is passive smoking? Passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke [ETS] is a mixture of exhaled mainstream smoke [smoke exhaled by smokers]; and side stream smoke [smoke freshly generated from a passively lit cigarette]; as well as contaminants that diffuse through the cigarette paper and mouth end of the cigarette between puffs. ETS contains more than 4000 chemical compounds, and is even more carcinogenic than active smoking. Second hand smoke is a major source of indoor air pollution.

Immediate effects of passive smoke

Tobacco smoke is an irritant and causes eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea. Adults with asthma can experience a significant decline in lung function when exposed, while new cases of asthma may be induced in children whose parents smoke. Short-term exposure to tobacco smoke also has a measurable effect on the heart in non-smokers. Even 30 minutes exposure is enough to reduce coronary blood flow.

Passive smoking and adults

In the long run, passive smokers suffer an increased risk of a range of smoking-related diseases. Breathing second hand smoke for even a short time can have immediate adverse effects on normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of a heart attack. Non-smokers, who are exposed to passive smoking in the home, have a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer. A major review by the Government-appointed Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health [SCOTH] concluded that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer and ischemic heart disease in adult non-smokers.

Passive smoking and children

Almost half of all children worldwide live in the home of a smoker. Infants of mothers who smoke have five times the risk of sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS]. They also suffer from reduced birth weight and reduced lung functioning. Passive smoking increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and bronchiolitis in children. Passive smoking is also associated with middle ear infection in children as well as possible cardiovascular impairment and behavioural problems. A US study found deficits in mental development, reading and reasoning skills among children even at low levels of smoke exposure.

Protect your loved ones from second hand smoke

The UN Surgeon General says that the only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of second hand smoke is through 100 per cent smoke-free environments.

You can protect yourself and your loved ones by:

  • Making your home and car smoke-free
  • Asking people not to smoke around you and your children
  • Making sure that your children's day care centre or school is smoke-free
  • Choosing restaurants and other businesses that are smoke-free. Thanking businesses for being smoke-free. Letting owners of businesses that are not smoke-free know that second hand smoke is harmful to your family's health
  • Teaching children to stay away from smoke
  • Avoiding second hand smoke exposure especially if you or your children have respiratory conditions, if you have a heart disease and /or are pregnant
  • Talking to your doctor or healthcare provider more about the dangers of second hand smoke.

Quit smoking

We cannot draw compartments as to where to smoke, and where not to. Believe me; humans have a tendency to stretch their own rules, to their convenience. The single best way for giving you and your family a smoke-free environment is to Quit Smoking. Quitting requires planning, and a strong intention to quit the habit. Also, there are effective support systems to help you in your quitting process. A tobacco cessation clinic will definitely help you in your treatment of tobacco dependence. A structured tobacco cessation intervention needs to combine intensive psycho-therapeutic interventions, along with pharmacotherapy to reduce the withdrawals/urges of quitting. Nicotine replacement therapy and pharmacotherapy is also available to make the quitting process easier. Also, new drugs such as Varenicline are promising greater success in managing the cravings/withdrawals effectively.

We all know smoking is bad for us and our family. With every puff that we inhale, we are actually dumping more than 4000 chemicals into our body. We all understand that cigarettes are smoking us to disease and death very fast. Still we all abuse our body with that poison stick; and strangely, we all also want to quit!

Your quitting can give you and your loved ones a "Smoke-Free World". Quit smoking today!

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Sajeela Maini
Sajeela Maini is a New-Delhi-based Tobacco Cessation Specialist, running a chain of Tobacco Cessation Clinics. She runs Tobacco Cessation Programs in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; and National Heart Institute, New Delhi. She is also the President of Tobacco Control Foundation of India and Director of Quit Tobacco Consultancy.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I am undergoing a treatment by Dr. Sajeela Maini and believe me she is excellent in her work that with her help I quit smoking as well as alcohol within 2 days. Guys, Smoking kills us as well as persons who lives with us and alcohol is the biggest curse for the society. Hats for you Doctor for helping us to get rid of this dangerous addiction.

    Vishal

  2. Great article, what is the name of this doctor? I need to know so I can site this for a school assignment.

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