In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a nicotine addict who forced me to inhale her second-hand smoke in order to get to the entrance of my favorite café. Seated on an outdoor bench, the addict was spewing smoke directly into my path. In an example of synchronicity that would’ve made C. G. Jung smile, today’s Mayo Clinic e-newsletter, Housecall, included an article on the hazards of second-hand smoke. We would all do well to check this out, especially those of us who live in rental facilities that have not as yet banned smoking. It might also be a good idea for the Walgreens board to peruse the article. As we all know, Walgreens is a wealthy and powerful ally of smokers. Here’s the article:
Secondhand smoke: Avoid dangers in the airExposure to the toxins in secondhand smoke can cause asthma, cancer and other serious problems. Know what you're breathing — and consider practical steps for clearing the air.
What's in secondhand smoke?Secondhand smoke — also known as environmental tobacco smoke — includes the smoke that a smoker exhales (mainstream smoke) and the smoke that comes directly from the burning tobacco product (sidestream smoke). Secondhand smoke contains toxic chemicals, including:
- Ammonia, used in cleaning products
- Butane, used in lighter fluid
- Carbon monoxide, found in car exhaust
- Chromium, used to make steel
- Cyanide, used in chemical weapons
- Formaldehyde, an industrial chemical
- Lead, a toxic metal
- Polonium, a radioactive substance
How risky is secondhand smoke?
- Cancer. Secondhand smoke is a known risk factor for lung cancer. In addition, secondhand smoke contains benzene — which increases the risk of leukemia.
- Heart disease. Secondhand smoke damages blood vessels and interferes with circulation, which increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Recent research suggests that secondhand smoke also increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
- Lung disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke can aggravate respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Low birth weight. Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
- Asthma and respiratory illness. Secondhand smoke increases the risk — and severity — of childhood asthma. Secondhand smoke also causes chronic coughing, phlegm and wheezing.
- Infections. Children who live with people who smoke are more likely to develop bronchitis and pneumonia.
How can secondhand smoke be avoided?
- Don't allow smoking in your home. If family members or guests want to smoke, ask them to step outside. Air conditioners and ventilation systems don't effectively remove secondhand smoke from the air.
- Don't allow smoking in your vehicle. If a passenger must smoke while you're traveling, stop as needed for smoke breaks outside the car.
- Insist that smoking restrictions be enforced at work. Many states have laws against smoking in the workplace.
- Choose smoke-free care facilities. This applies to child care facilities as well as facilities for older adults.
- Patronize businesses with no-smoking policies. Choose smoke-free restaurants. When you travel, request nonsmoking hotel rooms.