FACT SHEETs q5 by jamiemccoy


									The health risks of
passive smoking
The health risks of                             Stroke: A recent study in New Zealand found
                                                that exposure to passive smoking increases
passive smoking                                 the risk of stroke by 82% in non-smoking
                                                men and by 66% in non-smoking women.
Previously, people often only considered        This is a serious concern, as stroke is such
passive smoking as a welfare issue, focusing    a common condition.
on the smell and the irritation that tobacco
smoke causes to eyes, nose and throat.          Asthma: 3.4 million people in the UK
But over the last few years, the weight         have asthma and for most of these, tobacco
of evidence for much more serious risks         smoke is a trigger for an asthma attack.
to health from passive smoking has grown        For someone with asthma, just one hour
too great to ignore.                            of exposure to passive smoking can cause
                                                a 20% deterioration in lung function.
Why is one person’s smoking
harmful to others?                              Pregnancy complications: Passive smoking
Tobacco smoke contains around 4,000             during pregnancy increases the risk of having
chemicals, including arsenic, benzene,          a baby with a low birth weight. Small babies
formaldehyde and ammonia. Around 60             are at much greater risk of infections and
of these chemicals are known or suspected       other health problems.
to cause cancer. Many of the toxic
chemicals are actually more concentrated        Risks to children: Children don’t make
in the smoke that’s given off by the burning    up much of the workforce, of course,
tip of a cigarette (sidestream smoke) than      but they may still spend quite a bit of time
in the smoke inhaled by the smoker through      in other people’s workplaces, like schools,
the filter (mainstream smoke). Around 85%       leisure centres, cafes or shopping centres.
of the smoke in a room where people are         Children are even more at risk because
smoking is the more toxic sidestream smoke.     of their smaller lungs and the fact that
By breathing in the smoke in the atmosphere,    their bodies are still developing. For them,
the non-smoker is exposed to many of the        passive smoking increases the risk of asthma,
same health risks as the smoker.                bronchitis, pneumonia and middle ear disease.

What are the health risks?                      After reviewing all the available evidence,
Lung cancer: The best-known risk to smokers,    the latest report prepared for the government
lung cancer, is also more common in people      by SCOTH has concluded that there is now
regularly exposed to passive smoking.           no doubt that breathing in other people’s
The government’s Scientific Committee on        smoke significantly increases the risk of
Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) reported in          cancer and heart disease, and advised that
1998 that passive smoking increases the risk    no infant, child or adult should be exposed to
of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20-30%.        second-hand smoke.

Heart disease: Even though they inhale only     A recent review of international research on
1% of the smoke, passive smokers may suffer     the immediate health impact of smoke-free
25% of the increased risk of heart disease      workplace legislation found rapid and dramatic
associated with active smoking (one study       improvements. Air quality, respiratory health
suggested it might be as much as 50%).          and levels of heart attacks and heart disease
Just 30 minutes of passive smoking can reduce   all improved substantially within months of the
the coronary blood supply of a non-smoker       legislation being introduced.
to the same level as that of a smoker.

Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland, 18 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast BT2 8HS
Tel: 028 9031 1611 (voice/minicom) Fax: 028 9031 1711 Website: www.healthpromotionagency.org.uk

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