Passive Smoking Facts

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Passive smoking – a genuine risk

When you smoke, unless you do always do it alone, it’s not just your life and health you’re affecting. There is now a large body of scientific opinion that suggests that second hand smoke has a negative impact on the health of non-smokers who come into contact with it.

The smoke emitted from the end of a burning cigarette has double the concentration of nicotine and tar when compared to the smoke actually inhaled by the smoker (through a filter). It also contains three times the amount of benzopyrene (a known carcinogen), five times the amount of carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) and perhaps as much as 50 times the amount of ammonia (found in household cleaners). (see What’s in a Cigarette)

  1. Lung cancer
  2. Heart disease
  3. Children


1.  Lung Cancer

In the UK, long term exposure to second hand cigarette smoke has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer by 20 – 30%. In fact, each year, hundreds of non-smokers die of lung cancer as a direct result of passive smoking.


2.  Heart Disease

A study published in 1997 by the American Heart Association found that the risk of heart attack and subsequent death is 91% higher (i.e. almost double) for women who were regularly exposed to second hand smoke and 58% higher for those who were only occasionally exposed. (see Female facts) This study took place over ten years (1982 – 1992) and involved more than 32,000 women.


3.  Children

Children exposed to second hand smoke double their chances of being hospitalized for chest illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The are also much more likely to get ear infections, tonsillitis, wheezing and childhood asthma. In fact passive smoking in known to be one of the main contributory factors to the development of childhood asthma and has been shown to increase both the frequency and severity of the asthma attacks themselves.


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Last modified: August 04, 2000