Effects of Second Hand or Passive Smoking

If you work or live in an environment where you are susceptible to second hand smoke, you could very well be at risk of developing serious lung health issues. Passive smoking essentially means breathing in tobacco smoke caused by other. This smoke can be categorised into two, namely exhaled mainstream and sidestream smoke. Exhaled mainstream smoke is tobacco smoke exhaled by a smoker, whereas sidestream smoke is smoke from a lit cigarette, pipe, or cigar. Sidestream smoke is more toxic than mainstream smoke due to the higher concentrations of cancer causing agent. The fact is that passive smoking causes 600,000 deaths annually along with adverse lung health effects.

The Problem with Second Hand Smoke

The problem with second hand smoke is that non-smokers still inhale the harmful effects of nicotine and toxic chemicals. There is no way to define how safe second hand smoke is as any amount can pose a risk to your health. Smoking can cause cancer and so can passive smoking despite its second hand nature. From the 7000 chemicals found in the smoke, 70 of those can still cause cancer even if you are a non-smoker. If you are exposed to passive smoking, you are at risk of the following types of cancer.

  • Laryngeal cancer (Type of Throat Cancer found in the Larynx)
  • Pharyngeal cancer (Type of Throat Cancer found in the Pharynx)
  • Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Rectum cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Breast cancer

Passive smoking can also cause cancer in children such as Lymphoma, Leukaemia, liver cancer, and brain tumours. When it comes to children’s health and the adverse effects on their lungs, exposure can be from before birth and after. Children exposed to passive smoking are at a higher risk of it causing asthma or triggering asthma attacks (making symptoms worse) as their bodies are more sensitive and thus more susceptible. They tend to get sick more often, have ear/lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and have difficulty breathing with coughing and wheezing. Passive smoking can also cause premature births and lower birth rates when exposed to expectant mothers.

Places of Passive Smoking Exposure

Places in which you can be exposed to passive smoking are many including work, public places, at home, and in the car.

At Work

One of the most common places of exposure is at work. One means of ensuring against passive smoking is create smoke-free workplaces or separating smokers from non-smokers (by allowing for a smoking area). By ensuring that cleaning the air (using filters) and properly ventilating the building are set in place can also help as long as smoking is not allowed inside. .

At Home

Making your home free of smoke is the best way to rid your family of passive smoking risks. Proper ventilation and air filters can help as long as smoking is not done indoors. If you live in multi-housing options, there may be exposure through ducts, elevator shafts and so forth, therefore taking measures to filter your air and adding ventilation can help reduce the risk to a certain extent though not completely.

In the Car

Toxins while smoking in the air can increase your risks even with the windows open or with the air conditioner running. It’s also recommended that cars are also declared smoke-free as well as homes.

In Public Places

Anywhere that smoking is allowed can pose a threat from second hand smoke. Schools, parks, restaurants, shopping malls, and public transportation are such places that can pose the most threat. Choose smoke-free locations when in public would be best such as with restaurants and businesses. Ensuring that your child’s day care centres and schools are smoke free is important too.


NSW Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017