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Smoking is a dangerous health hazard. Smokers are always advised to distant themselves from this bad habit that can completely destroy their health. In this study we are going to focus on a different aspect of smoking, which is called passive smoking or secondhand smoking. It is similar to smoking except that it is done without the knowledge of the individual. The secondhand smoke poses a very hazardous health risk in today’s world.
Secondhand smoking also known as passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called SHS or second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), from tobacco products used by people in the near neighborhood. It occurs when tobacco smoke penetrates any environment, causing its hazardous inhalation by individuals within that environment. Scientific proofs reveal that exposure to passive inhaling of tobacco smoke on a daily basis causes disease, disability, and eventually death. Secondhand smoking has played a vital role in the debate over the dangers and control of tobacco products. Since the early 1970s, the tobacco industry has been worried about secondhand smoking as a serious threat to its business interests and danger to "innocent bystanders" was considered as an inspiration for stricter regulation of tobacco products. In spite of an early awareness of the associated dangers of passive smoke, the tobacco industry united to research a scientific controversy with the aim of forestalling regulation of their products.
Currently, the health risks of second-hand smoke are a matter of scientific concern and these risks have been a major inspiration for smoking bans in public areas, including offices and indoor public places like restaurants, bars and pubs etc. The term ‘third-hand smoke’ was recently coined to identify the residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains even after the cigarette is extinguished and the so-called passive smoke has cleared from the atmosphere. It is now not very clear whether and to what limit third-hand smoke may pose a threat to respiratory organs (Environmental Protection Agency).
A research done in the year 2004 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of WHO (World Health Organization) concluded that non-smokers are exposed to the same amount of carcinogens as active smokers. Sidestream smoke consists of more than 3,000 chemicals, including 69 well-known carcinogens. Of special concern are polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons etc., all known to be highly carcinogenic. Mainstream, sidestream and second-hand smoke generally consists of almost the same components, however the concentration changes depending on the type of smoke. Many well-established carcinogens have been shown by the tobacco manufacturing firms’ own research to be present at higher levels in sidestream smoke than in mainstream smoke. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has been proved to produce bigger amount of particulate-matter (PM) pollution than an idling low-emission diesel engine. In a research conducted by the Italian National Cancer Institute, three cigarettes were left smoldering, one after the other, in a sixty cubic meters garage with a limited air exchange. The cigarettes produced PM pollution exceeding outdoor limits, as well as PM concentrations up to 10-fold that of the idling engine. Long tobacco smoke exposure has quick and substantial effects on the bloodstream and blood vessels in a way that increases the risk of a heart attack, especially in individuals already at risk. Exposure to tobacco smoke for thirty minutes significantly reduces coronary flow velocity reserve even in healthy non-smoking individuals. Pulmonary emphysema was found in rats though sharp exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke i.e. exposure to thirty cigarettes a day over a period of forty-five days. Degranulation of mast cells adding to and causing lung damage has also been observed. Breathing in cigarette smoke even though it is passive can cause cancer. Secondhand smoke can increase a non-smoker's vulnerability to lung cancer by a quarter. Secondhand smoke can cause other health risks too, including heart stroke and breathing problems. Even 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can reduce blood flow in a non-smoker’s heart. Every year passive smoking kills 12,000 people in the UK because of lung cancer, heart problems and strokes. In the United States, the primary source of most passive smoke is from cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and other types of tobacco products. Secondhand smoke is especially hazardous for children since their bodies are in the developing stage. Smoking in the presence of young children increases their vulnerability to cot death, glue ear, respiratory diseases like asthma and chest infections, and probably cancer later on in life. A research done by the Royal College of Physicians concluded that almost 16500 children are admitted to hospital every year because of illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. More than 40% of children in Western countries live in houses where at least one family member smokes. The scientists and physicians recommend smokers not to expose their kid to the smoke (Mennella et al.). Since January 1, 1995 smoking has been banned in all enclosed offices or work areas in California, including restaurants and bars (bars were not included till January 1st , 1998), exempting only the following areas: workplaces with 5 or less than 5 employees (provided all employees consent and citizens under 18 are prohibited from the smoking area), 65% of the guest rooms in hotels, lobby places of hotels that are exclusively chosen for smoking, meeting rooms and banquet areas except while food or beverage functions are taking place, retail or wholesale tobacco shops and cigar bars ( private smokers lounges), trucks or tractors if no non-smoking people are present. Most cities in California allow landlords to regulate smoking at their own free will.
There are mainly two kinds of tobacco smoke: mainstream smoke, which a smoker inhales directly through the mouth from the end of the cigarette, and sidestream smoke, emitted by the burning end of the cigarette. Passive smoke contains mainly sidestream smoke, which is almost four times more dangerous than mainstream smoke, although individuals inhale it in a more diluted mode (National Cancer Institute). This arises since sidestream smoke contains much deeper levels of several poisonous components and cancer triggering chemicals in cigarettes, including about thrice the amount of carbon monoxide and five times more amount of cadmium. The workplace is a huge source of passive smoking exposure in the case of working class. Passive smoke meets the standard to be classified as a potential cancer-causing agent by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal organization responsible for health and safety rules in the case of workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), another federal organization, also recommends that secondhand smoke be considered a high risk carcinogen in offices and workplaces. As there are no reliable safe levels, they recommend avoiding maximum exposure to passive smoke by all means and reducing it to the lowest possible levels. Secondhand smoke in the workplace has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and lung cancer among adult non-smokers. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating the building cannot prevent exposure if people still smoke inside the building. An extra bonus other than protecting non-smokers is that workplace smoking restrictions may also encourage smokers to quit. Their health is susceptible to high danger even though employers have the responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Regarding smoking in public places MPs voted by a huge majority to make public spaces, pubs and private members' clubs included, smoke free. This move will ultimately aid to protect laborers from the hazardous effects of passive smoking and has been praised as a noteworthy step in public health.
Suggestions to prevent second hand smoke from affecting innocent citizens:
No safe level can be defined for exposure to secondhand smoke. Studies have discovered that even smaller levels of passive smoke exposure can be hazardous.
The most important things that can be done to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure is
1) Completely eradicate smoking in indoor places.
2) Isolate smokers from nonsmokers intentionally
3) Cleanse the atmospheric air by air cleansers.
4) Properly ventilate public buildings and offices.
5) Encourage people to practice Yoga and Reiki which help them fight addiction to tobacco.
6) Hoist region wise anti-smoking campaigns.
Anyhow even living in the same home with a smoker can also cause the same health problems (National Toxicology Program, page number). To make a real difference to this particular smoking hazard ,a number of of anti-smoking campaigns starting from the school level needs to be brought forward. Addiction should be treated from a mental level rather than a physical level. Strong campaigns that teaches the negative effect of smoking should be held everywhere and the ideas ,those campaigns put forward should be clear enough to convince the smokers. For instance, Researches reveal that many people spend a great deal of time in their cars, and if someone smokes there, hazardous amounts of smoke can build up quickly which can harm children very easily(International Agency for Research on Cancer) .If the campaigners can expose truths like the above people may at least stop smoking for the sake of their kids. Also religious institutions like church have a great deal to do in this regard by providing a mental healing for addictions. Addictions mainly arise because of insecurity .When people are made mentally strong and peaceful a large variety of addictions can be successfully fought. Also practicing yoga and Reiki can help smokers quit these addictions. The smokers should be lovingly discouraged from smoking by their friends and family member’s .Love and care can influence the smokers to quit smoking. People coming from good family background are less prone to these types of addictions .Health awareness should be given region wise starting from school level. Sensible counselors, teachers with good morale and religious institutions can help a great deal to build moral values among citizens.
To conclude, we can say that secondhand smoke is a dangerous problem for people’s health. Several millions of people worldwide, including children and adults are still exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces in spite of a huge deal of progress in tobacco regulations and control. Hence each and every individual should take necessary steps to make their homes and workplaces as smoke-free as possible, thus leaving the world a little better for others to live (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).