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Effects Of Secondhand Smoke

There are two types of smoke that make up secondhand smoke, sidestream smoke and mainstream smoke. Sidesteam smoke is the smoke that comes from the burning of a cigarette. The smoke that is exhaled when smoking is considered to be the mainstream smoke. Being exposed to secondhand smoke is also referred to as “passive smoking”.

Depending on the brand of cigarettes, the paper the tobacco is wrapped in, and the chemicals added to the tobacco there could be anywhere from 4,000 to 100,000 chemicals present in secondhand smoke. Of the chemicals identified within secondhand smoke, at least 60 of these chemicals are cancer causing agents. Other chemicals in secondhand smoke can interfere with cell development. There are other compounds in secondhand smoke that only become cancer causing after they enter into the body and interact with specific enzymes. Upon activation of these compounds they can become part of a normal cell’s DNA and could interfere with the normal development of cells.

Individuals who live with a smoker where smoking is allowed indoors are at the most risk of suffering the bad health effects of secondhand smoke. In the United States, more than 3,000 deaths a year occur from the exposure of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is also associated with the following noncancerous conditions.

  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Severe lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, in children
  • Irritation in the eyes and nose
  • Children have a higher chance of developing asthma
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Ear infections in children
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Babies born with lower birth weight with women who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant

Secondhand smoke is clearly a health risk for people who don’t smoke. If at all possible avoid places and situations where you may be confronted with secondhand smoke, especially if you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about being exposed to secondhand smoke and the possible effects it has had to your health, you should contact your doctor.

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