Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Health Care and Second Hand Smoke

Smoking has long been considered to be cool. It was especially glamorized in the movies in the 1930's up until the last couple of decades. Unfortunately, the adage that smoking is cool is a lie that has been propagated by the tobacco industry for decades. The website AllAboutLifeChallenges.org states that the world has been deceived into believing the lie that smoking is socially acceptable and cool. Smoking is hazardous to the health of both the smoker and the bystanders. Passive smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease; this can hardly be socially acceptable. Another myth of smoking is that a smoker is sophisticated. However, a repulsive smell, yellow fingers and teeth is not a badge of sophistication. Dying of lung and heart disease or cancer won’t promote your popularity.

Consider the short-term effects of smoking:
--Smoking makes you smell bad, gives you bad breath, and stains your teeth.
--Smoking lowers hormone levels.
--Smoking causes cavities.
--Smoking lowers hormone levels.
--Colds last longer and smokers get sick more often.
--Most people would rather date a non-smoker.
--Smoking costs a lot of money.
--Smoking begins damaging your body the moment you start.

Second Hand smoke has been proven to be extremely dangerous also as a major health hazard according to the American Lung Association (ALA). Secondhand smoke, also know as environmental tobacco smoke, is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished and can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.

The ALA also provides info on issues related to second hand smoke:
--Second hand smoke has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known cause of cancer in humans (Group A carcinogen).
--Second hand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.
--Second hand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700-69,600 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year.
--Nonsmokers exposed to second hand smoke at work are at increased risk for adverse health effects. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars were found to be 2 to 5 times higher than in residences with smokers and 2 to 6 times higher than in office workplaces.
--Since 1999, 70% of the U.S. workforce worked under a smoke-free policy, ranging from 84% in Utah to 49% in Nevada. Workplace productivity was increased and absenteeism was decreased among former smokers compared with current smokers.
--States are passing laws about second hand smoke. Eighteen states - Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont - as well as the District of Columbia prohibit smoking in almost all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Montana and Utah prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, including restaurants; bars will go smokefree in 2009. New Hampshire prohibits smoking in some public places, including all restaurants and bars. Four states - Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada - prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, including restaurants, but exempt stand-alone bars. Fifteen states partially or totally prevent (preempt) local communities from passing smokefree air ordinances stronger than the statewide law. Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon have passed legislation prohibiting smoking in almost all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars, but the laws have not taken effect yet.
--Second hand smoke is especially harmful to young children, and causes 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the United States annually.
--Second hand smoke exposure may cause buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in 790,000 physician office visits per year.
--Secondhand smoke can also aggravate symptoms in 400,000 to 1,000,000 children with asthma.
--In the United States, 21 million, or 35% of, children live in homes where residents or visitors smoke in the home on a regular basis. Approximately 50-75% of children in the United States have detectable levels of cotinine, the breakdown product of nicotine in the blood.
--Research indicates that private research conducted by cigarette company Philip Morris in the 1980s showed that secondhand smoke was highly toxic, yet the company suppressed the finding during the next two decades.
--The current Surgeon General’s Report concluded that scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Short exposures to secondhand smoke can cause blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability, potentially increasing the risk of heart attack.

The ALA is particularly adamant about how second hand smoke affects children:
1.) Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.
2.) Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.
3.) Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.
4.) Children who have asthma and who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks.
5.) There are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases every year of infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and children under 18 months of age who breathe secondhand smoke. These result in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations!

Pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli reports that understanding the effects of second hand smoke on our kids may help you give up smoking. Fortunately, most mothers understand the negative effects that smoking while they are pregnant can have on their unborn baby. These effects can include having a small or underweight baby, and having a baby with abnormal lung function. Mothers who smoke are also more likely to have a premature baby and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 'long-term cognitive and behavioral problems including lower intelligence and attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.'

Although they may stop smoking during their pregnancy, many of these mothers do start smoking again after their baby is born according to Dr. Ianelli. This postnatal exposure to smoke by their children is also bad though. Being exposed to someone that smokes, even if they just smoke outside the home, is thought to increase a child's chance of having ear infections, allergies, asthma, wheezing, pneumonia and frequent upper respiratory tract infections. Smoke can also trigger asthma attacks in many children and they are often worse than in children who aren't exposed to someone that smokes. And infants who are exposed to a caregiver that smokes, or a mother that smoked while she was pregnant, are up to 4 times more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So improve your own and your child's health by getting some help quitting smoking.

The ALA also provides great tips on protecting you and your family from the effects of second hand smoke:
--Don't smoke in your home; and, ask other people not to smoke in your home, especially baby-sitters or others who may care for your children.
--Choose children's day care centers, schools, restaurants and other places you spend time in that are smoke-free.
--Ask smokers to go outside while they smoke.
--If someone must smoke inside, limit them to rooms where windows can be opened or fans can be used to send the smoke outside.
--Help people who are trying to quit smoking.
--Let family, friends and people you work with know that you do care if they smoke around you.
--In your car, do not smoke or allow others to smoke while the windows are rolled up.
--In restaurants and bars, ask to sit in the non-smoking area.
--Make sure your child's day-care, school and after-school programs are smoke-free.
--Ask your employer to make sure you do not have to breathe other people's smoke at work.

Smoking and second hand smoke are dangerous. Neither one of them certainly isn't cool. In addition to being a bad habit, your health and family will suffer long term results that will lead to very expensive medical issues both in the short term and later in life. If you smoke, STOP. If you know someone who does, try to help them quit. Smokers don't like to have their habit stepped on, but it is in their best interest and for the benefit of our national health.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

Great information about secondhand smoke, unfortunately the tobacco companies still are sending out distorted messages that secondhand smoke never hurt anyone--what a lie. but technically true since it is the side stream smoke that comes off of the tip of the cigarette that is more dangerous than the exhaled smoke that has already left many of it's deadly components in the smokers body. Because the side stream smoke is formed at a lower temperature, more cancer causing substances are produced, plus the smoke is not being filtered by either a filter or the smokers body. When a smoker questions the danger of "secondhand" smoke--ask them to compare the color of the smoke coming out of their mouth to the color of the smoke coming off the tip of the cigarette--whitish gray as compared to blue. Big difference!. For free quitting tips visit: www.StopSmokingStayQuit.blogspot.com
VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting, a former smoker, cancer thrivor and Tobacco Treatment Specialist