Smoking kills and is harmful to your health. That is the warning message on most cigarette boxes that we all see but ignore. But understanding the warning’s implications could save your life, especially if you count yourself as a non-smoker.
Breathing other people s smoke is called passive, involuntary or second hand smoking.
When a person lights up a cigarette, the non smoker breathes smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette and mainstream smoke that has been inhaled and then exhaled by the smoker.
“Sidestream smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, including tar and carbon monoxide and 69 known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) such as formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210.
Several carcinogens have been shown to be present at higher concentrations in sidestream smoke than in mainstream smoke, in part because passive smokers do not gain the benefit of the filter.
We are all too often aware of some of the immediate effects of passive smoking other than stinky clothes and hair, which include eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea.
More sinister effects include exacerbation of asthma in adults, induction of asthma in children, as well as a measurable effect on the heart in non-smokers (30 minutes exposure to passive smoking is sufficient to reduce coronary blood flow). Overwhelming evidence of the detrimental health impact of long term passive smoking has been building up over the past two decades with unanimous conclusions. Long term passive smokers have an increased risk of 25-30% of developing lung cancer and a 30% increased risk of developing heart disease.
Passive smoking is the cause of thousands of deaths worldwide. In the United Kingdom around 2,700 people aged 20-65 years die from passive smoking with a further 8,000 deaths a year amongst people aged 65 years or older.
In France passive smoking has been shown to cause between 3000 and 5000 premature deaths per year and studies carried out in the United States estimate that heart disease caused by passive smoking was the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, ranking behind active smoking and alcohol abuse.
According to the World Health Organization, almost half the world’s children (700 million) are exposed to tobacco smoke by the 1.2 billion adults who smoke. There is a plethora of devastating health impacts of passive smoking on young children. Children exposed to passive smoking are more likely to suffer from asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus production and have an increased risk of childhood meningitis, diabetes and behavioral problems including learning impairments.
Furthermore, smoking while pregnant or around a pregnant woman can have a devastating impact on the unborn child and can cause abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight (which puts the fetus at risk for developing other diseases such as diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in later life) sudden infant death and numerous disabilities such as brain damage, cleft palate growth retardation, learning disabilities and leukemia.
Many European countries throughout the world and American States have now imposed or about to impose a public smoking ban which serves to protect non smokers from passive smoke. Such an outcome for the Middle Eastern countries would be a hopeful development for the region, but one that is sadly at the moment, too far from the maddening smoking crowd.
Avoiding second hand smoking in a country such as Egypt with all its social smoking might be tricky but obtaining treatment for all the diseases you are exposed to and may contract from passive smoking, might be even trickier.
It’s not rude for someone to ask a smoker to put out their cigarette or keep their smoke to themselves, but it is an infringement of rights for a smoker to share their smoke with, everyone else.