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Health Concerns

Second-hand smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke or second-hand smoke is composed of the smoke exhaled from a smoker as well as the smoke released from the end of a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar. It consists of more than 4,000 chemicals including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride, and arsenic.

Does it affect health?

Scientific evidence carefully collected over the last 30 years by many different scientists in a wide variety of settings clearly shows that people repeatedly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are more likely to develop and die from heart problems, lung cancer, and breathing problems. It can also cause chest infections, ear infections, excessive coughing and throat irritation.

Because children breathe faster than adults they are particularly vulnerable to environmental tobacco smoke. Parents who smoke increase the chances that their children will develop asthma by 200 to 400 per cent. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are also more likely to develop ear infections. Your decision to smoke may also send a message to your children that it is okay if they start to smoke.

Environmental tobacco smoke works quickly. Tests show that within a matter of seconds after a pregnant woman breathes in environmental tobacco smoke it begins to affect her unborn baby. For example, at a certain age, unborn babies begin to "practice" the skills they will need to breathe later on. Muscles in their chests normally go through rhythmic contractions. But within seconds of being exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, these contractions can suddenly stop for hours at a time.

Even your pets can be affected by your second-hand smoke. They too are more likely to develop cancer and other health problems.

Can it be filtered or removed from the air?

Unfortunately, many of the harmful products in smoke are in the form of gas. Therefore, environmental tobacco smoke cannot be entirely filtered out through ventilation systems or special fans. In fact, ventilation systems in many office buildings actually act to spread environmental tobacco smoke into rooms where no one has been smoking. It can take many hours for the smoke of a single cigarette to clear.

What should I do?

If you smoke, the best solution is to quit. If you can't or don't want to quit, limit your smoking to places where others won't be exposed to your smoke.

Be especially careful around children, pregnant women, and those who have heart disease and breathing problems.

Remember that smoke travels great distances; smoke from one room can easily spread to other rooms. Because space is confined, it is especially important not to smoke in your car when other people are present.

Also, if other people live with you, try to make your home completely smoke-free. Smoke outside, away from open windows and air intakes.

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