Did you know that secondhand smoke is more harmful than smoking? Cigarettes have filters, so smokers are protected from certain toxins in the tobacco. However, secondhand smoke comes out of the other end of the cigarette – the end that doesn’t have a filter.
So while you might accept the risks of smoking for yourself, you could be harming someone you love without realizing it.
Fifteen Harmful Consequences of Secondhand Smoke
Unfortunately, being exposed to unfiltered cigarette smoke can have harmful and even devastating side effects. Below are fifteen harmful impacts that come from exposure to cigarrette smoke.
1. Problems with Pregnancy
Secondhand smoke can harm babies even before they are born. Unfortunately, it can cause a baby to be born prematurely. Along with this could come the issue of a low birth weight. A woman could even have a miscarriage.
It can affect the mother’s health as well. Breathing, energy, and blood pressure levels can all be affected. It’s best if you avoid secondhand smoke from all sources if you’re pregnant.
Unfortunately, children are the ones who suffer the most from being around smokers. They get sick more often, especially with infections. They also tend to wheeze and cough often.
Children can’t defend themselves against it since it’s usually the adults in their households that are smokers. Even if the adults smoke outside, they can bring the toxins back into the home with them (discussed further along). This leads to children living in a consistently toxic environment which can make and keep them sick.
3. Babies have complications.
The toxins in smoke can cause quite a few complications in infants. For one, their breathing is severely affected from cigarette smoke. The smoke also increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Research has shown that most infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher levels of nicotine and carcinogens in their lungs than those who die from other causes. Unless the infant is lighting up it’s own cigarette, the high levels of nicotine and carcinogens come from other people’s smoke.
4. Mental Health Problems
According to researchers associated with Harvard University, second hand smoke can cause mental problems. They say it increases a child’s risk of neurological disorders by 50 percent. This includes problems like learning disabilities, depression, and behavior disorders.
In some cases, it can affect an adult’s mental health immediately. Their concentration can be broken and their short-term memory may not work as well. They could also suffer from depression and behavior issues like kids.
5. Immediate Health Problems
Some health problems are mentioned above, but did you know that some of these problems can happen immediately? Your blood pressure could rise, your oxygen levels can lower, and your heart may start working harder. You may even feel slightly light-headed.
This is extremely dangerous because in this case, your heart is working too hard. Secondhand smoke puts a lot of pressure on a person’s body and eventually, like any overworked machine, it will break.
6. Heart Disease
Being around smokers is detrimental to your heart health. In fact, a person who is exposed to cigarette smoke often is up to 30% more likely to have heart disease than a smoker. Heart disease is the most well-known side effect of smoking as well as second hand smoke.
Heart attacks are one of the most common heart conditions associated with exposure to cigarette smoke. The chemicals can cause these adverse impacts:
- Swollen arteries by irritating their lining.
- Endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the arteries can’t dilate.
- A higher risk of blood clots, which can block an artery.
7. Eye Problems
It’s crazy to think about, but second hand smoke can actually cause eye problems. Researchers believe that the issues are due to exposure from childhood which can cause a condition known as choroidal thinning. This condition is seen in many retinal diseases, but in the case of being exposed to cigarette smoke, it’s likely from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Macular holes are another issue that can come from exposure to smoke from cigarettes. This is just what it sounds like – a hole in the macula (light-sensitive tissue in the retina area). This can cause blurry or distorted vision.
It should be no surprise that second hand smoke causes sinus problems. Breathing in all those toxins can irritate your nostrils, making your body think that it’s being invaded by allergens. For some people, the smoke might actually be an allergen.
Medically known as chronic rhinosinusitis, sinus problems affect one in six people. According to a study done by Dr. C. Martin Tammemagi of Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario and his colleagues, being around smoke from cigarettes can increase your chance of suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis by up to 40 percent.
9. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a term for a group of diseases that obstruct your breathing. These conditions are horrible and can diminish your quality of life dramatically. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are examples of diseases included in this group.
Exposure to irritating chemicals is what causes COPD and, in most cases, the irritating chemicals come from smoking. It’s important to take steps to prevent COPD because by the time you start showing symptoms, it’s too late to reverse it. It’s one of the most preventable diseases but unfortunately also one of the most common because people don’t limit their contact with second hand smoke.
10. It causes skin damage.
The toxins in tobacco can cause significant damage to your skin. Examples are sagging skin and deep wrinkles. If you’re constantly exposed to secondhand smoke, you inhale all the toxins. This means you’re more likely to look worse than the smoker.
People who breathe in second hand smoke are exposed to over 7,000 chemicals. According to the CDC, hundreds of these chemicals are toxic to humans and at least 70 of them, known as carcinogen, can cause cancer.
Cigarettes have been linked to cancer for decades but people continue to put their lives and others at risk. It’s unfortunate that non-smokers, even a person who has never smoked even once, can be at the same risk of lung cancer as smokers.
Types of cancer linked to second hand smoke exposure:
- breast cancer
- nasal sinus cavity cancer
- nasopharyngeal cancer
- leukemia in kids
- lymphoma in kids
- brain tumors in kids
12. Thirdhand Smoke
It’s a little known fact that secondhand smoke leads to thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke is the smoke that saturates everything around it. It can get into clothing, furniture, hair, and more.
This lingering smoke still gives off toxic fumes. This essentially means that a place can become so saturated that simply living or working in it can become harmful to your health. This is especially bad for children because they become exposed during the most important time of development in their lives.
It’s easy to tell when someone is a smoker. You can smell the cigarette smoke on them, even if they smoke outside. You can also smell it on non-smokers who are around smokers often. Second- hand smoke is almost impossible to hide.
The scent tends to saturate everything from hair to clothing. The smell is just as strong on non-smokers as it is smokers. This means that kids of people who smoke may even be going to school smelling like cigarette smoke.
14. It can cause nicotine addiction.
It makes sense that someone exposed to the toxins in second hand smoke could become addicted to nicotine just like a smoker. Research has shown that second hand smoke affects the brain. It triggers the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) which are the same receptors that smoking triggers. Even short exposure can trigger these receptors.
Secondhand smoke is a killer. Each year, over 34,000 Americans die from heart disease due to second hand smoke. Out of these, at least 7,300 are from lung cancer and at least 8,000 of them are from strokes.
With all the problems listed above, is it any surprise that exposure to cigarette smoke kills? The body can only handle so much and over time, all the problems can break it down.
Secondhand smoke can be as bad as smoking. It’s detrimental to your health and can have immediate negative effects. The long-term consequences could be unbearable.
Staying away from it can be hard if you have loved ones or co-workers who smoke. You have to make a choice to be around them and get sick, or to stay away from them if they won’t stop smoking. It’s a hard choice and one that you can only decide when you search your heart. However, anyone who puts your life in danger is selfish, and it may not be worth sacrificing your health to be around that person.
Just keep these fifteen points in mind as you make your choice. Hopefully, you’ll choose to live and avoid the bad choices highlighted here.