Exposure to cigarette smoke in the environment is called involuntary or passive smoke. Passive or second hand cigarette smoke exposure ranks near or at the top of the asthma triggers list. Research is beginning to show passive smoke exposure's impact on the health of all people. Passive smoke is a combination of two types of smoke:
Mainstream cigarette smoke is a mixture of over 4,000 substances, 40 of which are known or suspected cancer-causing agents in humans. Sidestream smoke contains all of these same carcinogens, and many of them are more concentrated because the lower burning temperature of a smoldering cigarette burns up fewer carcinogens. In a report released in 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared "the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the United States presents a serious and substantial public health impact." The EPA further concluded that, in adults, passive smoke is a Class A (known human) carcinogen "responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in U.S. non-smokers."
The most frightening statistics regarding passive smoke exposure are related to its effects on children. Children who live in a house where someone smokes have more respiratory infections and experience more frequent flares of asthma symptoms. Their symptoms are also more severe and last longer than those of children who live in a smoke-free home. The impact of passive smoke is worse during the first five years of life, when children spend most of their time with their parents. The more smokers there are in a household and the more they smoke, the greater the risk for children with asthma.
The following conditions are worsened by passive smoking:
Steps to Avoid Passive Smoke Exposure
Contact your local nonprofit organization for more information.
Some resources that may be helpful are:
The American Lung Association
The American Cancer Society
The American Heart Association