Second-hand smoke in the environment
Second-hand smoke, which is considered to be highly toxic, is the result of cigarette smoke or smoke that is exhaled by smokers. Other sources include pipe, cigar or marijuana smoke.
The chemicals found in secondhand smoke are the same as those inhaled by the active smoker. However, because their combustion is incomplete, the concentration is 100 times higher. Second-hand smoke contains six times more nicotine, three times more tar and 73 times more ammonia than smoke inhaled by the smoker.
Among other things, second-hand smoke contains:
- carbon monoxide, an asphyxiating gas that reduces tissue oxygenation
- formaldehyde, a carcinogenic, irritant gas used as a disinfectant
- benzene, a highly toxic and irritant flammable liquid
- nicotine, a substance producing an addictive effect and also used in the manufacturing of insecticides
- ammonia, a compound used in the manufacturing of explosives, fertilizers and paint solvents
- arsenic, an agent producing a highly carcinogenic effect on the skin and lungs
- hydrocyanic acid, a violent poison that is extremely harmful to the lungs
Perform the white tissue test…
Ask a smoker to exhale a lungful of cigarette smoke through a tissue. You will observe a yellow/ brownish stain containing toxic, carcinogenic and irritant substances, resulting from the combustion of:
- the cigarette paper (chemical cellulose pulp)
- the glue
- the colouring agents
- the filter (cellulose acetate)
- the tobacco
Two-thirds of the smoke produced by tobacco spreads into the ambient air. Anyone within close range of an active smoker cannot help but breathe in this tobacco smoke, and therefore becomes a passive smoker.
According to one study conducted among passive smokers, a mere 30 minutes of exposure in a smoke-saturated room increases the level of carbon monoxide in their blood, not to mention their blood pressure and pulse.
The primary effects of second-hand smoke on the passive smoker’s heal…
Second-hand smoke can :
- irritate the eyes, nose and throat
- cause headaches, dizziness and nausea
- aggravate the symptoms and speed up the progression of lung disease
- reduce the level of protective cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the blood
- increase the risk of respiratory infections:
- bronchitis (acute bronchitis)
In nursing infants and children of parents who smoke, second-hand smoke produces the following effects :
- doubles the risk of crib death
- exacerbates inflammatory bowel disease
- increases the risk of otitis and respiratory tract disorders:
Did you know that…
- A pregnant woman exposed to second-hand smoke is more likely to give birth to a baby of lesser weight.
- The baby’s pulmonary function may even be reduced during early childhood.
- Close to one-third of children under the age of 17 in Quebec, are passive smokers.
- Children whose parents smoke, suffer more from second-hand smoke than from outdoor pollution.
Second-hand smoke also affects the health of household pets. Their fur coat traps the smoke particles which the animals then absorb when they groom themselves. Second- hand smoke may cause leukemia in cats, and increases the risk of cancer in dogs.
Second-hand smoke in the environment
Tobacco smoke is the main source of indoor pollution and the easiest to eliminate completely. Simply forbid anyone from smoking in the house. Opening a window, smoking in another room, using air purifiers or ventilation systems offers no protection against second-hand smoke. After the cigarette is extinguished, the second-hand smoke remains in the environment. It settles on food, clothing, skin, carpets, curtains, in the air, etc., and remains there for days, and even weeks.
Most ventilation systems are designed to limit the accumulation of carbon monoxide and reduce the odour of smoke, without eliminating it however. Simply opening the car window will not eliminate cigarette smoke and can even create a back draft that draws the smoke back in and directly onto the passengers.
La plupart des systèmes de ventilation sont conçus pour limiter l'accumulation de monoxyde de carbone et réduire l'odeur de la fumée, sans toutefois l'éliminer. Le fait d'ouvrir une fenêtre dans la voiture ne suffit pas à éliminer la fumée de cigarette et peut même entraîner un courant de retour d'air dans la voiture et faire ainsi revenir la fumée directement sur les passagers.
Other sources of environmental pollution caused by smoking include:
- Empty cigarette packs (2 billion / year)
- Cellophane wrap, packaging, boxes and shipping cartons
- Foil wrappers
- 50 billion cigarette butts (non-biodegradable filter)
A few solutions for eliminating second-hand smoke:
- no smoking inside
- creation of closed smoking rooms with independent ventilation
- smoking cessation programs for those who want to quit
- public education exposing the hazards of second-hand smoke.
In an effort to reduce smoking and eliminate second-hand smoke recognized as the leading causes of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), lung cancer and cardiovascular disorders, the Lung Association has created the Poumon-9 program.
This helpline is designed to help people quit smoking and support them throughout the cessation process. Staffed with health professionals, trained to offer smoking cessation assistance, provide information regarding the various methods and products available on the market…
The services available from the Lung Association are provided by respiratory health professionals. If you are faced with problems linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis – emphysema), asthma or any other respiratory illness, or if you simply require information about the various smoking cessation assistance programs that are available, feel free to call using our toll-free helplines.