Understanding the Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke and How You Can Protect Yourself
By Becky Dotson
12 min read
Smoking has proven to be a dangerous habit. It can cause long-term health problems for anyone who has a history of smoking. But over the past several decades, the number of Americans who smoke has steadily decreased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number of smokers in the U.S. now around 14 percent.
Unfortunately, even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette in your life, you can still end up develop health issues from it. That’s because secondhand smoke is dangerous and unhealthy, too.
Secondhand smoke is any smoke you inhale from tobacco that is being smoked by someone around you. And it has two different sources – the smoke being exhaled by the smoker and the smoke coming from the lighted end of whatever they’re smoking.
The CDC says secondhand smoke contains more than 7 thousand chemicals, hundreds of them are toxic and around 70 of them are known to cause cancer. And there’s really no level of safe or risk-free exposure. It’s estimated that at least 58 million Americans every year are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, at work and in public.
Secondhand smoke can cause so many health issues. It’s actually the third-leading cause of preventable death in America and is blamed for more than 50 thousand deaths each year.
It doesn’t take long to have a negative impact on your body. Within minutes, secondhand smoke can cause your blood vessels to constrict. Long-term exposure can eventually lead to heart disease, lung cancer or stroke in adults who have never smoked. In children, secondhand smoke can hinder lung development. It can also cause chronic ear infections, coughing, shortness of breath and respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. It can also increase a child’s risk for more frequent and severe asthma attacks.