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Harmful effects of secondhand smoke

You know when you’re seated next to someone consuming a cigarette, and you’re unconsciously inhaling the smoke that comes from it? That’s secondhand smoke.  Also known as passive smoke, it is the inhalation of smoke by a third party within that environment.

Nonsmokers that inhale secondhand smoke expose themselves to the same chemicals, like carbon monoxide, as the smoker. Cigarette is easily the most common source of secondhand smoke. Pipes, weed and cigars are also sources. Passive smoking occurs pretty much anywhere – home, work and even public areas.

So, what are the effects of secondhand smoke?

Lung cancer

A person who has never smoked but is constantly around those that do is at risk of developing cancer of the lungs. Passive smoking means one is exposed to the same cancer causing substances and chemicals as smokers. Eg Arsenic, Benzene, Beryllium and Cadmium.

Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process rolling.

Cardiovascular diseases

One of the common causes of cardiovascular diseases is through secondhand smoke. Third party inhalation has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and can lead to a stroke and/or coronary heart disease.

Breathing secondhand smoke interferes with the way the heart and blood usually function. As it damages the lining of the blood vessels, causing the platelets to become thicker. These fast changes can quickly switch to a heart attack.

Pregnant/Nursing women

Secondhand smoke is dangerous for pregnant/nursing women as it can resort to SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome). Here, the death of the child is sudden and unexpected in the first year of life of the child. Smoking or third party inhalation by women during pregnancy increases the risk of SIDS.

Chemicals in smoke affect the brain in ways that disrupt the regulation of a child’s breathing. It pumps their lungs with nicotine and cotinine, which are very dangerous chemicals for the body.


Growing children are almost always at the receiving end of the effects of passive smoke. Children whose parents or family members smoke get sick often and are prone to infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. They are also more likely to have cough and shortness of breath frequently.

Secondhand smoke in children can also trigger asthma attacks and make asthma symptoms worse. It can also create new cases of asthma in children who did not have symptoms before.

Secondhand has wide ranging effects on an individual’s health and damaging consequences.  It is advisable to make the home and car smoke free. It is also important to keep children away from smokers too.

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