What is passive smoke
Is passive smoking harmful
Yes. Breathing in someone else’s cigarette smoke (passive smoking or secondhand smoke) can increase your risk of cancer and other health problems. It is also particularly harmful for children.
Smoke stays in the air
When someone smokes a cigarette, the smoke from it stays in the air. So does the smoke they breathe out. Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours. It may still be there even if you can’t see it or smell it.
This also applies in small enclosed places, such as cars. Smoke may still be present in large amounts even after the person has stopped smoking.
Risks of passive smoking
Passive smoking can damage your body because secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 toxic (very harmful) chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer. Passive smoking from all forms of tobacco is harmful, including:
Frequent exposure to other people’s smoke can increase your risk of lung cancer, even if you do not smoke.
Passive smoking also increases your risk of other smoking-related conditions. These include: coronary heart disease, heart attacks, angina (chest pain)
heart failure, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs)
Children and passive smoking
Breathing in secondhand smoke is particularly harmful for children. Children who breathe in secondhand smoke have an increased risk of:
cot death (sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS) - this is twice as likely in babies whose mothers smoke
developing asthma - smoking can also trigger asthma attacks in children who already have the condition also make it worse.
serious respiratory (breathing) conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia - younger children are also much more likely to be admitted into hospital for a serious respiratory infection
coughs and colds
middle ear disease, such as otitis media (a middle ear infection), which can cause serious hearing loss
Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are also about twice as likely to start smoking later in life.
If you’re a parent who smokes, it will be hard to explain to your children why they shouldn’t start smoking. Try to lead by example and quit or start using Electronic cigarettes to wean you of normal cigarettes. As well as improving your heath and theirs, your children may be less likely to start smoking later in life.
Smoking and the law
In July 2007, smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants and workplaces, was made illegal to protect non-smokers from the health risks associated with passive smoking.
The Health A-Z has information about treatment and support to quit smoking, as well as advice about self-help when you’re preparing to stop.
Your GP can also give you advice about quitting smoking.
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