Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

You could get more than the steak dinner you ordered if you go to a restaurant that allows smoking. You may also be given a side order of more than 4,000 known chemical compounds from cigarette smoke, regardless of whether you sit in the nonsmoking section1. This secondhand smoke contains approximately 250 harmful chemicals, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.

Just like a chocolate/vanilla shake, secondhand smoke also comes in two parts. Sidestream smoke is the smoke released from the end of a lighted cigarette, pipe or cigar. Mainstream smoke is the smoke breathed out by a smoker. These two smokes mix together to form secondhand smoke, which is also known as involuntary smoking, environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking.

The toxic soup of secondhand smoke includes cancer causing chemicals, toxic metals and poison gases. This less than appetizing menu offers:

  • Benzene, found in gasoline.
  • Formaldehyde, used in embalming.
  • Vinyl chloride, used to make pipes.
  • Arsenic, used in pesticides.
  • Lead, used in paint.
  • Ammonia, used in household cleaners.
  • Butane, used in lighter fluid.
  • Carbon monoxide, found in car exhaust.
  • Toluene, used in paint thinners.
  • Cadmium, used in batteries.
  • Chromium, used in steel making.
  • Hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons.

That doesn't sound like a recipe for a healthy entrée, much less a kiddie meal. Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for children. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke run a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, as well as more frequent and severe bouts of asthma. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is linked to more than 750,000 middle ear infections in children annually and 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as bronchitis or pneumonia) in children less than 18 months old. These illnesses result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations.

Avoiding secondhand smoke is like trying to cut out all the saturated fats from your diet. Exposure can be minimized, but it is difficult to eliminate completely. That's because approximately one in four people smoke. In fact, more than 126 million Americans who don't smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace, public places, homes or vehicles3. But there are ways to protect yourself and your family.

  • Choose restaurants, daycare centers, schools and other places where you spend time that are smoke-free.
  • Don't let other people smoke in your home, including babysitters.
  • Support people who are trying to quit smoking.

According to a 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General's office, a safe level of secondhand smoke has not been determined. We do know that secondhand smoke produces immediate harmful effects in the heart and blood circulation. In the United Secondhand smoke is linked to about 35,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 cancer deaths among non-smoking adults. So if you want to breathe easier and really enjoy your meal, choose a smoke-free restaurant. And save room for dessert.

For more information about lung cancer, talk with your doctor or for a free physician referral to a specialist near you call 936-568-3289 / toll free 1-866-898-8446 or go to:   http://www.nacmedicalcenter.com/en-us/pages/physicianpage.aspx.

Telephone number for Loma Laird Cancer Center:  936-568-3541.