Exposure to second-hand smoke is as dangerous as smoking – PAHO/WHO Rep

There is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke. This is according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention [CDC], which has been able to deduce that second-hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic, and about 70 can cause cancer.
Essentially, second-hand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers into the atmosphere.
The harsh reality is that non-smokers exposed to cigarette smoke are in as much danger, if not more, than what smokers are exposed to. This state of affairs was recently amplified by local Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation [WHO], Dr. William Adu-Krow.
Dr. Adu-Krow pointed out that “If you make a conscious decision that you want to smoke, that is different from someone who has not made that decision, but you are forcing that person to make that decision, because you are smoking in their presence.”
It is for this reason, Dr. Adu-Krow underscored, that the recently passed Tobacco Control legislation is designed to outlaw smokers’ privilege to smoke in areas where it can affect others who are non-smokers.
Many smokers have shared their objection about moves towards the implementation of the Tobacco Control legislation. Some have surmised that since they are going to die by some means, whether they continue to smoke or not, moves should not be made to prevent them from doing so freely.
But according to the PAHO/WHO Representative, smoking will essentially help to speed up the process up and added to this, if it is done in the presence of others, their lives will also be at risk.
“A lot of them like to say ‘I will die anyway, so let me smoke’ If you want to fast-track your death, why do you take medication when you become sick? Some people even go to the ‘obeah’ man to get help when they are sick because they do not want to die. We all know that we will die, but nobody really wants to fast-track it by smoking,” Dr. Adu-Krow emphasised.
When it comes to second-hand smoke, the PAHO/WHO Representative explained that a smoker can affect others in the environment simply by putting his hands with a lighted cigarette out of the window of a moving vehicle.
“The finer particles that linger on during the flaming phase of the cigarette [and the smoke exhaled by the smoker] that is what we [non-smokers] inhale, and that is worse,” Dr. Adu-Krow amplified.
According to the CDC, since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, millions of adults who were non-smokers have died because they breathed second-hand smoke. But it isn’t only adults who are affected, since the CDC has revealed too that second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Added to this, smoking during pregnancy has been known to result in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually, according to CDC. The body has also found that some of the health conditions caused by second-hand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
Given the wide-reaching and very daunting impact of cigarette use, the PAHO/WHO Representative stressed the need for deliberate efforts to be made to control the impact of cigarette use.
Even as he amplified the need for youths to be especially targeted, Dr. Adu-Krow stressed that, “the numbers are clear, the youths are smoking too. Some youths start smoking as early as seven years and, there are some who are smoking 20 cigarettes per day or more. That’s in the minority, but that is still a scary thing,” he added.
He noted that while many youths may see smoking as merely a social practice or a way for them to be viewed as appealing to their peers, there are in fact health consequences. “Everyone [young people] may want to smoke something and feel on top of the world, but some of them think that they can smoke, and whenever they are ready they can kick the habit. Unbeknown to them the tobacco companies, when it comes to the nicotine aspect of it, have been fine-tuning it to get them addicted earlier,” said Dr. Adu-Krow.
Cigarettes are known to be addictive because they contain tobacco. In fact, according to reports, there are many other harmful chemicals in cigarettes that are known to damage many parts of the body. According to Dr. Adu-Krow, while quitting can help to reverse or at least stop the progression of the damage that cigarette smoke can cause, young people may find it difficult to quit.
He considered that based on a study done between 2012 and 2017, there is a clear indication that the young brain is more inclined to become addicted than the adult’s.
“They think they are young and they are not vulnerable, but that’s not the case…the [tobacco] companies know this and they thrive on this, they say ‘let’s get them young and let’s get them hooked for life.”

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