Secondhand Smoke Dangers: Quitting Cigarettes Now Will Help Keep Loved Ones Safe

Of the 250 toxic chemicals found in secondhand (or “passive”) smoke, at least 50 are known to cause cancer. The Surgeon General says there’s no safe level of secondhand smoke and, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths among nonsmokers in the U.S. each year.

Fortunately, most states now have strict laws about smoking in restaurants, workplaces, and other public places. These rules may be frustrating to smokers, but they can be extremely helpful once smokers decide to quit. What do you think about smoking bans?

Lighting up sends 50 types of carcinogens into the air.

Lighting up sends 50 types of carcinogens into the air.

A trip to Hawaii—a gift from her father—was what Lynn Dodd, 46, of Goode, Va., needed to help her kick the habit. She was traveling with two others who didn’t smoke, and it was shortly after the state tightened its smoking laws, so it was a great time to quit as a thank-you to her dad. “I wasn’t even going to be able to smoke outside on the balcony,” she explained, since smokers there are required to be 20 feet from any building. She bought a box of full-strength nicotine patches and stuck one on right before her group left for the airport. “I haven’t smoked since!” she says.

Smokers often decide to finally kick the habit based not on concerns for their own health, but for that of the family and friends who unwillingly suffer alongside them. Being aware of the danger you put them in every time you light up might serve as motivation to quit for good.

The smoke from your cigarettes (secondhand smoke) puts your loved ones’ health at risk. Even if you try to keep smoke out of your home by smoking outside, you still bring nicotine into your home on your clothing and hands, and in your hair.

  • Spouses and children of people who smoke have an increased risk of cancer and heart disease, because of secondhand smoke.
  • Babies whose parents smoke:
    1. Are more likely to have ear infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis in the first few years of their lives.
    2. Have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Children of people who smoke are more likely to be smokers themselves.

When you quit smoking, you reduce all of these risk factors for health problems in your family. You also increase the chance that your children will not smoke or will quit if they already smoke.


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