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Suffering without smoking

Olympia Shilpa Gerald
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DREADFUL:Going by the World Health Organisation’s 2013 campaign, at least 6 lakh deaths every year worldwide are attributed to passive smoking or second-hand smoke.File photo
DREADFUL:Going by the World Health Organisation’s 2013 campaign, at least 6 lakh deaths every year worldwide are attributed to passive smoking or second-hand smoke.File photo

You may spot at least one rally or awareness campaign today on ‘World No Tobacco Day’ warning against various health risks, smokers may develop. But it is not only smokers who face the music: any non-smoker exposed to continuous or frequent smoking is bound to suffer equally.

Going by the World Health Organisation’s 2013 campaign, at least 6 lakh deaths every year worldwide are attributed to passive smoking or second-hand smoke.

This includes not just exposure to smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette but also breathing in smoke exhaled by a smoker, loaded with cancer-causing chemicals.

Smoking at homes

The public ban on smoking seeks to protect the health of non-smokers. “But after the ban on public smoking in 2008, indoor smoking in homes has increased,” notes Arun Seschalam, medical oncologist and web director, Comprehensive Cancer Network.

“This impacts children who are constantly exposed to smoke.” While setting aside smoking zones or smoking rooms in public places like hotels may help non-smokers, only a blanket ban on tobacco production and sale may help on the domestic front, feels Dr. Arun.

“Sometimes, the toxicity in second-hand smoke might be higher than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. So a non-smoker who is continuously exposed to smoke stands the chances of developing many of the risk factors linked with smokers,” he adds.

Smoke affects children

Children of smokers are at a higher risk of developing wheezing, asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory problems, says paediatrician D.Swaminathan, Tiruchi GH. “When a child is brought in with a complaint of asthma or bronchitis, we discover that more often than not one of the parents is a smoker,” he says. Other paediatric complaints include middle ear infection and sudden death syndrome that affects new-borns.

Parental smoking is definitely an additional risk factor for children diagnosed with asthma, agrees A. Nagarajan, pulmonologist.

“Children who are under asthmatic treatment can have rapid deterioration of the lung if they are continued to be exposed to second-hand smoke, as it is one of the triggering factors.” Children of parents who smoke are more likely to pick up smoking in adolescence or adulthood, he adds.

Workplace smoking

Second-hand smoke also affects the foetus of a pregnant women leading to low-weight babies or intrauterine growth restriction – stunted growth of baby the womb.

For patients undergoing cancer treatment, constant exposure to smoking may reduce success of treatment and make them prone to developing other cancers, is the opinion among oncologists. Smoking in workplaces bears hazards of its own as there is a tendency to smoke more when in a group.

Exposure to second-hand smoke may increase the risk of lung cancer and heart disease in adult non-smokers, according to WHO.


  • Non-smokers exposed to continuous smoking may suffer as much as smokers

  • Children exposed to smoking are at risk for asthma, respiratory problems


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