Passive Smoking is second hand smoking - breathing in others "used up" smoke.
Secondhand tobacco smoke poisons hide in
household dust and on furniture and other surfaces like curtains, clothing which
can expose adults and children to levels of poison that are equivalent to
several hours of active smoking. When you smoke, it isnít only your own health
youíre putting at risk, it is also others around you who are affected.
What is passive smoking?
Passive smoking occurs when anyone (including the smoker) inhales tobacco smoke
from the environment, as opposed to directly inhaling from a cigarette
This environmental or Ďsecond-handí smoke comprises two parts:
Smokers only inhale about 15% of the smoke from a
cigarette. The rest enters the atmosphere.
- smoke exhaled by a smoker (mainstream smoke) and
- smoke produced from the tip of a burning cigarette (side-stream smoke).
How dangerous is passive smoking?
Second-hand smoke contains all the same carcinogenic toxins and poisons that the
smoker inhales, but at even greater levels. Toxins in second-hand smoke aren't
filtered. They are side-stream smoke which is formed at lower temperatures and
gives off even larger amounts of some harmful substances.
It is estimated that a
non-smoker in a smoke-filled room for eight hours will inhale the equivalent
amount of carcinogens to smoking 36 cigarettes
Immediate negative effects of second-hand smoke may include:-
Exposure to second-hand smoke and smoking while
pregnant are both linked to miscarriage, low birth weight and stillbirths.
Children of parents who smoke have a greater chance of dying of sudden infant
death syndrome (SIDS).
- eye irritation
- nasal discomfort and sneezing
- sore throat
- increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Passive smoking and cancer
Second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer in non-smoking partners of heavy smokers
as well as in non-smokers exposed to smoke in the workplace.
Passive smoking and heart disease
30 minutes exposure to passive cigarette smoke is 30 times more harmful to the
hearts of non-smokers.
Poisons exhaled by smokers cause
Passive smoking and respiratory problems
- decreased oxygen to the heart
- increased blood pressure and heart rate
- increased blood clotting and
- damage to lining of the blood vessels
Second-hand smoke has also been linked to a number of other respiratory health
problems, including pneumonia, sinus infection and impaired lung function.
Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from colds, pneumonia,
bronchitis, ear infections, coughing and allergies. If the children already have
asthma or allergies, a parent's smoking may cause these conditions to get worse
Passive smoking and Womenís health
A woman who lives with a 20-or-more-a-day smoker has her chance of becoming
pregnant lowered by 34%. Conception will be even harder for a woman who smokes
and is exposed to passive smoke. Middle-aged men who are heavily exposed to
second-hand smoke have nearly twice the risk of not fathering children.
If a woman falls pregnant and she is a smoker, she should stop smoking for the
nine months that she is pregnant. Tobacco can have terrible effects on an unborn
Babies born to mothers who smoke get sick more often. They develop more slowly
than babies of non-smoking mothers. They may also not do well in school in the
- Unborn babies do not develop well because oxygen cannot be carried by the blood
of a smoking mother and her unborn baby.
- Babies born to smoking mothers are smaller than babies of non-smoking mothers.
- Low birth-weight babies are more likely to die at birth.
Pregnancy and smoking
If a pregnant woman smokes there is a higher risk of:
Protect your child from tobacco smoke
- start of labour before the time
- more bleeding for the mother
- reduced breast milk
- Poisons in cigarettes pass through breast milk of the smoking mother to her baby.
- Babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy also get more coughs, colds,
bronchitis and pneumonia than other babies
- Children of smoking parents inhale the same amount of nicotine as if they
themselves smoked the cigarette.
- Children in the smoking area of a restaurant are also smoking.
- Children are more likely to smoke if one or more parents smoke.
- No person should smoke in a house, car, taxi, train or bus when children are
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Copyright © KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, 2001