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http://thestar.com.my/health/story.asp? ... sec=health


You might kill your loved ones with your smoking habit!

WHETHER you realise it or not, if you smoke in an enclosed space either in your house, workplace or public areas, you are not only exposing yourself to a multitude of health hazards, but you are also putting others around you at risk.

These people inadvertently become passive smokers. By definition, passive smokers are non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke, which is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products (side stream smoke) and the mainstream smoke exhaled by smokers.

Second-hand smoke is harmful and hazardous to the health of the general public, and particularly dangerous to children. It increases the risk of serious respiratory problems in children, such as a greater number and severity of asthma attacks and lower respiratory infections, and increases the risk for middle ear infections. It is also a known human carcinogen. Inhaling second-hand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in non-smoking adults.

In 2005, it was estimated that exposure to second-hand smoke killed approximately 46,000 adults non-smokers from coronary heart disease, more than 3,000 from cancer of the lung and an estimated 430 newborns from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Components of chemical compounds in second-hand smoke, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tobacco-specific carcinogens, can be detected in body fluids of exposed non-smokers.

One woman's tale

Non-smoking adults suffer physical irritation, discomfort and annoyance from tobacco smoke. Symptoms include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, ear infection and coughs.

Carole Deas, 59, shares her suffering from second-hand smoke: “I’ve never smoked, but I was exposed to second-hand smoke at home as my parents were heavy smokers. They smoked up to 40 cigarettes each per day. It’s something that put me off smoking; I never even wanted to taste it.

“As a child, I developed lots of ear infections. I would have an ear infection, then it would clear up, but it would come back. It went on and on like that until eventually it got so bad that I had no choice but to go and see a doctor. The doctor didn’t attribute the problems with my ear to exposure to the smoke at home.

“When I was 16 years old, I developed a severe ear problem. I must have had at least 15 or 16 polyps removed from my ears, which resulted in a mastoid operation and ultimately the removal of the whole of the inner part of the ear. The whole inner part of my ear had to be reconstructed, and since the age of 25, I’ve been hearing impaired.

“Both my parents died of smoking-related diseases, as well as my mother-in-law. My mother died of lung cancer, my father of hardening of the arteries and emphysema and my mother-in-law also died of lung cancer. It’s terrible to see somebody suffer like that, particularly at the end, through something that could have been avoided.”

Lung cancer risk

In the long term, passive smoking could cause lung cancer amongst healthy non-smokers. It is estimated that people who have never smoked and live with a smoker have a 25% increase in the risk of developing lung cancer compared with people who have never smoked and live with a non-smoker.

Heather Crowe, the waitress who contracted lung cancer from second-hand smoke and waged an anti-smoking campaign, died at the age of 61. She never smoked, but she was widely known for a television campaign in which she told how she contracted cancer at the restaurant where she worked for 40 years as waitress.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. She fought the disease into remission with chemotherapy, radiation and steroids, but ultimately lost the battle four years later.

Infants and children

Infants and young children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of cigarette smoke. Children exposed to cigarette smoke have a greater frequency of sore and/or watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, asthma, chest tightening, wheezing, slower lung growth and decreased lung function. These children are also more likely to suffer from respiratory infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, ear infection, tonsillitis and sinusitis.

Marie-Ann Tan, a 28-year-old IT analyst, shares her experience that almost took the life of her daughter. “I started smoking when I was in high school due to peer pressure. I started to smoke only because I wanted to be a “somebody”. I got married in 1998 and my husband did not seem to bother about my smoking habit.

“In 1999, I was pregnant with my first child and thought that it was not necessary for me to quit smoking even though I was pregnant. My daughter was born almost perfect and her birth was without complications. This further enforced my self-delusion that smoking cannot harm my family, despite what everyone else said.

“However, during my second pregnancy, I still didn’t want to stop, even after doctors advised me against lighting up. The 'best' part was, I began to smoke even more due to stress.

“Then everything changed when I was seven months pregnant. My baby girl was born prematurely. She was so tiny! The doctors put her on a life support system as her lungs were not fully developed. Her heart was beating irregularly and the nurse told us to prepare for the worst.

“The nurse explained that my smoking habit had increased the risk of my baby’s premature birth, probably also harming the foetus in the womb. From that moment on, I knew that I had to quit smoking. I could not bear the thought that I could have been the primary cause of my child’s death.

“By some miracle, my second daughter survived and I am grateful to have been spared the guilt of having 'murdered' my own daughter. I took it upon myself to quit. Immediately!

According to the World Health Organization, children’s passive smoking increases their risk of developing heart disease and cancer as an adult. In some children, it may also be a contributing factor in learning and language difficulties, and behavioural problems.

If a mother smokes during pregnancy, the unborn child is exposed to the same high levels of poisons as the mother. Evidence shows that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, baby not growing well in the womb, low birth weight baby, stillborn, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and illness in early infancy.

Quit smoking today for the sake of your loved ones. An effective way to quit is to use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), in the form of gum, patch or inhaler, which feeds your body's physical craving for nicotine but without the 4,000 plus dangerous chemicals found in a cigarette.


1. Source of information extracted from Daily Mail 24 hours a day: Figures Prove Passive Smoking Kills, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/a ... ge_id=1797

2. Source of information extracted from Passive Smoking Against Health – What is Passive Smoking, http://members.aol.com/toxicol98/neversmoke/p2e.htm

3. Source of information extracted from Passive Smoking – Why Am I at Risk, http://www.population.health.wa.gov.au/ ... g-Risk.pdf

4. Health Effect of Passive Smoking, http://thorax.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/53/5/381

5. Effects of Passive Smoking on Children’s Health: A Review, http://www.emro.who.int/Publications/EM ... moking.pdf

6. Passive Smoking – Why Am I at Risk, http://www.population.health.wa.gov.au/ ... g-Risk.pdf

7. Parenting and Child Health – Passive Smoking, http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthT ... 05&id=1579

Note: Dr Sallehudin Abu Bakar is Deputy Director (Public Health), Federal Territory Health Department, Kuala Lumpur.

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