Passive smoking

Just because you don't smoke doesn't mean you're immune to the risks. The Mix clears the air on passive smoking.

girl angry at smoker

"If I give you the stink-eye long enough, maybe you'll get the message."

What is passive smoking?

Passive smoking is when you breathe in the cigarette fumes of someone smoking near you. In enclosed spaces, like a house or a car, the toxic smoke of a cigarette can linger for over two and a half hours, even with a window wide open, and still get into your lungs.

What does a cigarette release then?

The passive smoke comes from the burning cigarette, as well as the exhaled smoky breath of the person sucking on it. This smoke contains over FOUR THOUSAND chemicals, none of which are good for you.

Even if a room’s not particularly smoky, 85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless, so you’re still exposed to the toxic cocktail, including 43 cancer-causing carcinogenic agents.

What are the health implications of passive smoking?

Passive smokers are exposed to the same health risks as smokers.

In the short-term this can be:

  • Irritated eyes
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Lung function is decreased in asthma sufferers
  • Blood flow through the heart is reduced

The long-term effects include:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Middle-ear disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Asthmatic attacks and reduced lung function in children
  • Behavioural problems in children
  • Premature birth and miscarriage
  • Childhood respiratory disease
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Can passive smoking kill you?

It’s obviously not as fatal as being a smoker yourself, but it’s estimated that 2,700 people aged between 20 and 60 die in this country each year from passive smoking. If you live with a smoker, your chance of getting coronary heart disease goes up by 50%.

The health implications are real and scary. As a result, the government banned smoking indoors in public places in 2007 to minimize the number of deaths from passive smoking. So, no, you’re not being pious or intolerant if you cough meaningfully when a smoker blows smoke in your face.

What can I do about people smoking around me?

If you live with, or in the same flats as smokers, read our living with smokers article here for some practical advice.

Photo of angry at smoker by Shutterstock


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Updated on 29-Sep-2015