When a person breathes in smoke that comes from the end of a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe that is exhaled by a smoker then they are inhaling almost the same amount of chemicals as the smoker will breathe in.
Children who breathe in passive smoke have an increased risk of: developing asthma; serious respiratory (breathing) conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia; meningitis, flu – coughs and colds, decreased hearing, also children who grow up with a parent smoking are more likely to smoke themselves.
Passive smoke can have many serious health effects on non-smokers including cancer and heart disease.
Some of the chemicals in passive smoke include:
- 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.
According to Cancer Research UK, one person dies every 15 minutes in Great Britain from lung cancer. Smoking directly causes over 120,000 deaths in the UK each year and contributes to more cases of cancer.
When a person inhales smoke from a cigarette it burns at 700°C at the tip and around 60°C in the core. This heat breaks down the tobacco to produce various toxins.
The damage caused by smoking is influenced by: the amount of cigarettes smoked; whether the cigarette has a filter and how the tobacco has been prepared.
For ex-smokers, it takes approximately 15 years before the risk of lung cancer drops to the same as that of a non-smoker.
Heavy smokers are twice as likely to get macular degeneration, resulting in the gradual loss of eyesight. Smokers run an increased risk of cataracts.
Smokers take 25 per cent more sick days per year than non-smokers.
Smoking affects a person’s complexion; smokers have paler skin and develop more wrinkles earlier in life. This is because smoking reduces the blood supply to the skin and lowers levels of vitamin A.
Babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are twice as likely to be born prematurely and with a low birth weight.