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Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke- The FACTS

Secondhand smoke is simply tobacco smoke from other people's cigarettes and cigars. It has many names, for example passive smoke and environmental smoke, but it is all the same and could be exposing you to serious health risks!

Even more toxic than the smoke going directly into a smoker's lungs, is the smoke coming from the end of a lit cigarette – it makes up 85% of the smoke in a smoky environment.
You can't see all of it because 85% of secondhand smoke is made of invisible, odourless gases.

Secondhand smoke is a killer

New research confirms that exposure to secondhand smoke puts you at risk of various diseases.

Secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease and lung cancer.

Your risk of lung cancer is increased by 24%.
Your risk of heart disease is increased by 25%.

Asthma anyone?

If you are breathing secondhand smoke at home or work, your chances of developing asthma are doubled. If you're one of the 5.2 million people in the UK who already suffer with asthma, it's almost definitely making your breathing problems much worse.

Breathing in your own, or other people's smoke, places the body under pressure. Tobacco smoke can damage almost every organ in the human body and can cause some unpleasant side effects.

At first (i.e. in the first few hours of breathing in secondhand smoke) you may notice:

  • coughing
  • headache
  • eye and throat irritation
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • feeling sick
  • breathing problems
  • asthma attacks
  • irregular heart beat

And over time (over months and years)

Worsening of chest problems and allergies like hay fever, bronchitis and emphysema and increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke can pass on the harmful chemicals to their babies.

WARNING Babies exposed to secondhand smoke have a greater risk of cot death. For more information visit the smoking and pregnancy page

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug but the real damage is done by:

  • Tar- known to cause both cancer and lung damage
  • Carbon monoxide- a gas found in car exhaust fumes
  • Benzene- found in petrol fumes and causes leukemia
  • Ethanol- used in anti-freeze
  • Ammonia- used in cleaning products
  • Formaldehyde- an embalming fluid
  • Hydrogen cyanide- an industrial pollutant
  • Arsenic- effectively rat poison
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)- found in diesel exhaust

All of these are found in the air you breathe when you inhale secondhand smoke.