Secondhand Smoke! (Part 2)


Published: Oct 19, 2011 00:30 Updated: Oct 19, 2011 01:48

Secondhand smoke is a leading health hazard; that is why I feel the need to continue discussing it this week in order to highlight its toxicity, especially to those who reckon it is harmless.

But, before I go into the dangers of secondhand smoke, let me recap some of the harmful effects of firsthand smoke. Death rates due to smoking have been found twice as likely in smokers than in non-smokers. The most common cancers directly connected to smoking are lung, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lips, tongue and salivary glands as well as cancers of urinary bladder, kidney, cervix, pancreas and glandular cancers. Smokers are also susceptible to a score of illnesses like osteoporosis, blood clots, strokes, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, infertility, reproductive dysfunctions, pregnancies outside the uterus and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, smoking has been linked to complicated pregnancies, spontaneous abortions and preterm deliveries. The good news is that cancer is preventable or can be delayed if the habit is stopped early enough before hurt takes place.

The danger of smoking is not limited to smokers, however. Secondhand smoke destroys the health of nonsmokers as well. Several months ago, somebody I know died of congested lung disorder even though she never smoked. she was a victim of secondhand smoke, as she was raised and lived in a smoking environment all through her life.

Secondhand smoke is the smoke left by cigarette, cigar, pipe and shisha (argeela) smokers in closed spaces. it is also known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

Longtime exposure to passive smoking does not only expose the individual to heart, lung and respiratory diseases and a selection of cancers, but also to stroke, stomach ulcers, gum disease, premature wrinkles and pregnancy problems.

Because of the health risk to innocent nonsmoking bystanders and of course to smokers themselves, a strong movement, empowered by scientific evidence, campaigned for smoke-free closed common areas. as a result of persistent campaigns, the US government responded with a ban on smoking in hospitals, airports, airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, restaurants, schools, universities, hotels, workplaces and common areas. Since it became a public health issue, many American states passed even tougher antismoking laws in the recent years. Consequently, cigarette ads, vending machines and selling to minors have also become prohibited. Several European countries have followed the American example in the last two years, resulting in less secondhand smoke.

What also triggered the ban were studies, which showed that teens, children, babies and infants who live with one or two smoking parents were at a greater risk of developing smoke-related health illnesses. The largest hurt was seen in babies less than two years due to their still developing lungs and not fully developed immune systems and brains. Confinement in smoke-filled homes and inhaling secondhand smoke made them more susceptible to chronic respiratory disorders like cough, asthma, frequent colds, bronchitis and pneumonia as well as behavioral disorders. due to breathing secondhand smoke and having insufficient oxygen intake, fluid builds up in the middle ear, leading to ear infections. other symptoms can be tearful, itchy, red eyes, nausea and headaches. Higher levels of nicotine were detected in the blood of children exposed to secondhand smoke.

Deaths resulting from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) are two and a half times higher in infants of smoking mothers. Fetuses of smoking mothers-to-be are not spared either. Babies born to smoking mothers are usually smaller due to insufficient oxygen reaching them in utero, slowing their developments. Nicotine was even detected in the cervical mucus of non-smoking women who inhaled secondhand smoke, eventually developing cervical cancer. Parents with bad smoking habits lost the custody of their children through court rulings for the protection of the little ones’ welfare.

You have to keep in mind that cigarettes, cigars and shishas emit smoke charged with hundreds of noxious substances apart from the harmful addictive nicotine. These are “nitrides, formaldehydes, hydrogen cyanide, benzopyrenes, phenols, carbon monoxide and radioisotope polonium 210-and alpha particle emitters many times more mutagenic than equivalent doses of x-rays.” The combination of nicotine and polonium has put tobacco at the forefront of daily poisonous substances. Carcinogenic residue is also learned in smokers’ bladders. Cancer is developed in smokers and those breathing secondhand smoke due to the immune-suppressive effect of tobacco inhalation, plus the carcinogenic effect of the many toxic compounds in cigarette smoke.

The industrialized countries’ restrictions on smoking and smokers are backed by findings from medical research and statistical studies. Since the Saudi health system follows their examples in the health and medical arenas, we should also follow their model, which is based on scientific standards. we, the non-smoking larger segment of the population call on health officials and organizations to apply similar restrictions on smokers and tobacco smoking in all forms in a strict manner in order to protect the health of the innocent from secondhand smoke in all public areas. Bans should not be only applied in hospitals, schools, airplanes and airports, but also in restaurants, quick food eateries, hotels, public areas, government buildings, hair salons, shops, universities, workplaces, taxis, trains and shopping malls in order to limit secondhand smoke health hazards for non-smokers and developing children and youngsters. Health authorities should put restriction on smoking parents in order to protect babies and children from smoke-filled environments at home. how is that done? The treating physician of such children can easily detect the cause of the respiratory problems. Healthy children are our most valuable future investment.

Unfortunately, the current ban is not strictly followed in our airports. The smell of tobacco smoke is detectable. Just three days ago, I received an email from a concerned reader who works in one of our major airports, complaining of smoking fellow employees who disregard the restrictions. The ban on smoking should be reinforced through penalties to protect the non-smokers’ right to cleaner air.

Furthermore, anti-smoking laws and health officials should prohibit the selling of cigarettes to minors and encourage and help smokers to quit the addiction. Adults selling or buying cigarettes for minors should be fined or punished and cigarettes should be heavily taxed. Such measures will provide smoke-free air, a cleaner environment and less exposure to debilitating diseases and killing cancers. as a result, health costs will substantially decrease, productivity will increase, children and adults will become healthier and our country and citizens will prosper, saving wasted money spent on tobacco and medical care.

Modern inventions and technology with their polluting chemicals and fumes have been bombarding our health with poisons, toxic air and polluted water. The least we can do now is clean our air and clear our lungs and bodies from tobacco and secondhand smoke toxicity. it is very possible.

Don’t tell me it is your health you are ruining, because it is also my health and my children’s health you are deliberately destroying!

N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they choose to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.

To read previous Health Solutions articles, visit: arabnews.com/life.style

Secondhand Smoke! (Part 2)