Secondhand smoke dangerous at any level

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Secondhand smoke dangerous at any level

Secondhand smoke — Eliminating indoor smoking offers the only protection to nonsmokers.

What happened? Separate sections for smokers and nonsmokers in restaurants, offices and other indoor areas aren't enough. The only way to protect nonsmokers from the dangerous mix of toxins and cancer-causing chemicals in secondhand smoke is to entirely eliminate smoking from indoor areas, concludes a new report from the Surgeon General.

The previous Surgeon General report on secondhand smoke, released 20 years ago, stated that separate smoking sections afforded some protection to nonsmokers. But the new report concludes that even today's sophisticated ventilation systems aren't good enough. It notes that even passing exposure to secondhand smoke — smoke from other people's cigarettes, pipes or cigars — is dangerous and can cause immediate harm to your heart and blood vessels.

Secondhand smoke can cause or contribute to premature death and various diseases, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear problems and worsening of asthma in children. Secondhand smoke also can cause lung cancer and coronary heart disease. It may increase the risk of cancers of the nasal sinuses, breast, cervix and bladder as well.

What does this mean to you? Former smokers outnumber current smokers. However, some 126 million Americans who don't smoke are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the Surgeon General report — breathing in many of the same toxins that smokers do.

Even if your community or state doesn't have comprehensive smoking bans, you can take steps to avoid secondhand smoke. Don't allow smoking inside your home or vehicle. Choose smoke-free care facilities for yourself, your children and your aging parents. Encourage loved ones to quit smoking. If they persist, avoid their secondhand smoke. And if you smoke, quit. Kicking the habit is the best way to promote good health.

Last Updated: 06/29/2006
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