Most everyone knows that smoking is harmful, but the effects of secondhand smoke are not as clearly understood. Secondhand smoke, which is also called environmental tobacco smoke, is the combination of smoke that is exhaled by a smoker and the smoke that comes from the burning end of a tobacco product. Most secondhand smoke comes from cigarettes, but some also comes from pipes and cigars. With secondhand smoke, people are exposed to smoke without choosing to smoke themselves.
Many times when people are exposed to secondhand smoke, it is against their will. Children are especially at risk for being exposed to smoke against their wishes. People can breathe secondhand smoke in their homes, cars, and near the entrances to public places. Recently, more and more laws have banned smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, and workplaces. This has helped reduce the effects of secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke has many harmful effects. There are hundreds of harmful chemicals found in secondhand smoke. According to the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is also linked to many other forms of cancer. It is important to make people aware of this, especially smokers, so that there can be a continued effort to reduce secondhand smoke exposure.
In addition to cancer, secondhand smoke can cause other health problems. The smoke can irritate airways and damage the heart and blood vessels. It increases the risk of heart disease and may be linked to strokes.
Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have additional risks. For these kids, there is an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma. Secondhand smoke exposure for kids even slows the growth of their lungs and causes coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Smoking should never occur around children, especially in enclosed areas.
There is no excuse for putting innocent nonsmokers at risk to the harmful effects of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there is “no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” Positive changes to protect against the danger of secondhand smoke have been happening. More efforts need to follow in order to stop the terrible effects of smoking.