The Real Hazards of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is the combination of fumes from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Yes, it’s gross but it’s downright dangerous. Breathing secondhand smoke interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause blood platelets to become stickier. These changes can cause a deadly heart attack.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. The risks of secondhand smoke to babies and children should be reason enough to kick the habit for good, or at least step outdoors before lighting up.

There is no risk-free level of exposure to the smoke streaming from a lit cigarette. Secondhand smoke causes serious health problems in infants and kids, including:

  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory infections
  • Impaired lung function
  • Ear infections (middle ear disease)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.

Secondhand smoke breathed by adults brings serious health risks, including coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, nasal irritation, reproductive impacts in women, including low birth weight in newborns. It causes 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year among nonsmokers. If you smoke, don’t expose others.

Sources: CDC,

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