Living With

Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke

Deanne Stein Health Guide July 16, 2007
  • Since I’ve been pregnant, everything is heightened, especially my sense of smell.  One thing that really gets me sick is the whiff of cigarette smoke.  Of course, I never enjoyed the smell of it before.  In fact, I always tried to avoid it because of the risk of second-hand smoke.

     

    Last year, the county where I live went smoke-free.  That means all public places; including restaurants didn’t allow people to smoke inside the building.  I couldn’t believe the change.  I think we all became so accustomed to smelling second-hand smoke, we didn’t notice it.  But once it was gone, eating out has been much more enjoyable and the air much cleaner.  I never realized it before, but even in non-smoking areas, the smell was still evident.

     

    Now that I’m pregnant, I’m even more cautious of second-hand smoke.  Smoking while pregnant not only puts my life at risk, but that of my baby.  Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and severe vaginal bleeding.  And even though I don’t smoke, doctors tell me if I inhale second-hand smoke, the dangers are the same as if I smoked myself.  I don’t mind people who smoke.  Many of my friends smoke; and my mother has smoked her entire adult life.  But my friends and family members are considerate of me.  They don’t smoke near me.  I really get upset, however, when smokers aren’t considerate, especially with their children.

     

    I was covering a story at our local housing authority and a family pulled up in the parking lot.  There were three adults in the van along with four children all under the age of about 6 or 7.  Two of the adults were smoking cigarettes and the windows were all up.  In fact, all I could see was smoke in the van and those poor kids forced to breathe it in.  I couldn’t believe those parents cared so little about their children’s health.  Then, I realized maybe they just weren’t educated to the dangers of second-hand smoke.

     

    The American Heart Association just released new evidence that environmental tobacco smoke has an adverse effect on children as young as 11 years of age.  “Our study shows that exposure to secondhand smoke can harm the function of the arteries in children, just as other research groups have found that secondhand smoke harms the function of the arteries in adults,” said Katariina Kallio, M.D., lead author of the study and research fellow at the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Turku, Finland.

     

    “Even a little exposure to smoke at home or in the public environment can be harmful to the cardiovascular system of healthy schoolchildren,” Kallio said.

     

    Children participating in this study were initially enrolled as infants and researchers studied boys’ and girls’ responses to environmental tobacco smoke at ages 8 through 11.  They assessed arterial health and objectively measured exposure to environmental smoke.

     

    About 35,000 nonsmokers die from coronary heart disease (CHD) each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, according to the American Heart Association.  In fact, studies show that cigarette smoking is also an important risk for stroke.  Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerbrovascular system.  Women who take oral contraceptives and smoke increase their risk of stroke many times over compared with nonsmoking women who use oral contraceptives.

     

  • The good news is that cigarette smoking is a choice.  It is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States.   More on smoking dangers: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4545  More on Study: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3048209