Many people are concerned about being exposed to secondhand smoke, which is sometimes referred to as ETS (environmental tobacco smoke). With 25 percent of the U.S. population smoking, it is sometimes hard to avoid it. In fact, there are still many people in countries around the world who are exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis, due to limited smoking ordinances, if any.
Although most people are conscientious about where they light up, many smokers feel their rights have been impinged upon in recent years by legislation that has banned smoking in public places and even made it illegal in certain areas, such as on airplanes. However, not all 50 states have gone entirely smoke-free. Some still allow smoking in places of recreation, such as bars, bowling alleys and casinos.
Here are some basic facts about secondhand smoke to be aware of:
Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes from burning a tobacco product. It is also the air that is exhaled by someone who is smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars, bidis, hookahs, etc. When a non-smoker inhales secondhand smoke it is called “passive smoking.”
Secondhand smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, like cyanide, ammonia, arsenic and carbon monoxide. In fact, smoke from the burning, unfiltered end of the cigarette has more toxins than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. It has been linked to heart attacks and a variety of cancers, including lung and breast cancer.
Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of developing pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and allergies, in addition to getting more frequent colds and ear infections.
To control exposure to secondhand smoke:
Protect those around you by smoking in outdoor designated places.
Make your home and car smoke-free zones. Opening windows are not enough, it can take several hours for smoke to clear from a room.
Provide a smoking area outside for guests who may choose to smoke, or offer chewing gum, a glass of water or a snack as alternatives to smoking.
If you are bothered by someone else’s smoking, ask them politely to put it out or excuse yourself from the room.
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