What is second-hand smoke?
The vapours inhaled from a burning cigarette are called ‘first-hand’ or ‘mainstream’ smoke. At the same time as a smoker smokes, people around them are exposed to what’s called ‘sidestream’ smoke. The combination of sidestream smoke and any exhaled smoke in the air is called second-hand smoke.
This smoke contains the same combination of over 7,000 chemicals that smokers inhale themselves, including many that are harmful.1
Studies show that non-smokers who live with smokers have a 25-30% greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, than people living in a smoke-free environment.3
What’s bad about second-hand smoking?
The proportions of chemicals produced by first-hand smoking vary when compared with second-hand smoke, but the chemicals themselves are generally the same. Some examples of toxic chemicals are:
- Carbon monoxide, which inhibits the ability of the lungs to take up oxygen.4
- Nicotine, which provides the short-lived feelings that get smokers hooked.6
- Tar, which can coat the lungs4
How does second-hand smoking affect children?3
Second-hand smoke statistics make difficult reading.
- There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.3
- Children, can suffer from a range of upper and lower respiratory illnesses when exposed to second-hand smoke.5
- A young person regularly exposed to second-hand smoke has a 20%-30% increased risk of developing lung cancer than those brought-up in a smoke-free environment.3
What about pregnant women and their babies?
Studies suggest that the risk of miscarriage and premature birth increases if a mother smokes during pregnancy, as does the likelihood of low birth weight. Health problems such as respiratory infections, asthma and allergies are more common in the infants of smokers.5
- 1. Schick S and Glantz SA. Sidestream cigarette smoke toxicity increases with ageing and exposure duration. Tobacco Control 2006; 15;424-429.
- 2. http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/impacting-those-around-you
- 3. http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/cigarettes-and-poison#whatsin
- 4. http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/tobacco/Pages/harms-of-smoking.aspx
- 5. https://www.quit.org.au/articles/why-we-smoke/
- 6. http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/cancer_factsheet