We are exposed daily to a form of air pollution that causes twice as many deaths as all other types of air pollution put together. This is known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), which is actually the smoke from other people's cigarettes.
Also referred to as second-hand smoke, about 85% to 90% of the smoke from every cigarette ends up in the air as ETS. A lighted cigarette produces two types of smoke that a non-smoker breathes in:
ETS consists of around 85% sidestream smoke and 15% mainstream smoke. Sidestream smoke has a higher temperature than mainstream smoke and does not pass through the cigarette's filter tip. The concentration of chemicals in sidestream smoke is thus higher than in mainstream smoke.
This does not mean that smoking is less dangerous. The smoker inhales far more smoke than the people around him because unlike ETS, mainstream smoke does not get mixed with the surrounding air before reaching his lungs.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, of which at least 400 are poisonous to man. The World Health Organization reports that at least sixty cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in secondhand smoke. Research on ETS has shown that living with, working with or just being around a smoker can harm your health. When you breathe in ETS, your health is affected adversely.
A person exposed to ETS is at risk of developing health conditions similar to those faced by the smoker, which include:
Recent studies have estimated that non-smokers exposed to ETS at home or in their workplace have their risk of lung cancer raised about a quarter, while heavy exposure at work doubles the risk of lung cancer.
There is evidence to suggest that babies and children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of ETS. When parents or other caregivers like grandparents smoke, their children suffer as well.
Some examples of the harmful effects on children include:
According to the Surgeon General Report, women who smoke while they are pregnant or are exposed to ETS are more likely to suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth. Their babies may be born prematurely or have a lower than normal birth weight.
Children whose parents smoke are also likely to pick up smoking, as seen in the Student Health Survey 20064 where 6 in 10 youth smokers have at least one parent who is also a smoker.
An additional danger remains even after a cigarette has been stubbed out. Third-hand smoke refers to cigarette residual particles that remain in the environment after a cigarette is extinguished. These particles linger on a smoker's hair, clothing, household fabrics such as carpets, curtains, rugs and surfaces like floors and windows. Young children and infants are especially susceptible to these toxins as they crawl on, play on, touch and inhale particles from these contaminated surfaces. This shows that the adverse impact of lighting a cigarette goes a long way.
Smoking has many harmful effects on health and ETS is one of them. Not lighting up a cigarette marks the beginning of a healthier lifestyle for you and your loved ones. Breathe in the fresh air by going smoke free today!