When someone smokes a cigarette, most of the smoke doesn’t go into their lungs. It goes into the air, where anyone nearby can breathe it. Whenever you light up, secondhand smoke is produced. This is the smoke exhaled by you, plus the smoke created by the lit end of a cigarette. This isn’t just unpleasant, it can be a killer. Exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk — by as much as 30 percent — that others will get lung cancer and many other types of cancer, it can lead to emphysema, and it is bad for your heart.
How harmful is second-hand smoke? Second-hand smoke is poisonous. It has over 4000 chemicals, including 50 that can cause cancer. Some of the chemicals in second-hand smoke are:
- Benzo[a]pyrene – found in coal tar, one of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals.
- Formaldehyde – used to preserve dead animals.
- Hydrogen cyanide – used in rat poison.
- Ammonia – used to clean floors and toilets.
Two-thirds of the smoke from a burning cigarette that enters into the air can be inhaled by anyone in that area. Second-hand smoke causes over 100 deaths each year in British Columbia. It keeps many more people from leading healthy lives.
How to Avoid Secondhand Smoke? It’s simple: Avoid being around people who are smoking, and try to convince those around you who smoke to quit. Anyone who does smoke should do so outside, as far away from other people as possible. Your home is probably the most important place to keep smoke-free, especially if you have children. Keeping kids (and adults) far away from smoke can help lower their chances of having respiratory infections, severe asthma, cancer, and many other serious conditions.