Most people know the dangers of smoking. Tobacco contains more than 60 potent carcinogens and has been linked to the development of many different cancers. Cigarette smokers have shorter lifespans, and while they’re alive, they experience breathing difficulties and other health issues. But many aren’t aware that simply being around a smoker is just as harmful as the act of smoking itself. If you live with someone who smokes indoors, you’re being exposed to the exact same carcinogenic chemicals as they are. Every time they take a puff around you, the organs in your body suffer. Shockingly, even being exposed to secondhand smoke for just a brief period of time can impair your vascular function by constricting your blood vessels. What exactly are the dangers of secondhand smoke, and how can you protect yourself from tobacco smoke?
The dangers of secondhand smoke
All smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes, is hazardous to your health. In fact, more than 2,500,000 non-smokers have died from secondhand smoke-related health problems since 1964, and 41,000 people die every year.
Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to children, who can develop ear infections, severe asthma attacks, frequent spells of coughing and sneezing, bronchitis and pneumonia, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) just by being exposed to tobacco smoke.
Adults who are exposed to smoke are also at risk for health problems, such as heart disease (34,000 secondhand smoke-related deaths each year from 2005-2009), lung cancer (7,300 deaths each year from 2005-2009), and stroke. Breathing in secondhand smoke immediately impacts the heart and blood vessels.
Who is being exposed to secondhand smoke?
During the years 2011-2012, around 58 million non-smoking adults in the United States were exposed to secondhand smoke. During those same years, two out of every five children ages 3 to 11 were regularly exposed to it.
Although secondhand smoke exposure is a problem among all ethnic groups, minorities suffer the most. 46.8% of Black nonsmokers and 23.9% of Mexican-American nonsmokers were exposed during the years 2011-2012. For comparison, only 21.8% of White nonsmokers were exposed during those same years.
Additionally, lower-income Americans of all ethnic groups suffer from smoke exposure. 43.2% of nonsmokers who qualified as being below the poverty level were exposed to secondhand smoke from the years 2011-2012.
How can I protect myself?
First of all, try to avoid people who smoke. If you have friends who are smokers, urge them to not smoke around you. Avoid smoking areas in restaurants or bars. To protect your children, check with their schools or daycares and ensure they’re tobacco-free. Sit down with your kids and explain to them how secondhand smoke is harmful.
Now you know the real risks and how it affects the body. Spread awareness by telling your family members and friends, and you’ll keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.