No safe level of exposure to passive smoking – Toxicologist


A recent media report citing a new study from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine, said researchers found that exposure to secondhand smoke increased the desire of ex-smokers and was a major obstacle for smokers trying to quit smoking. .

According to them, when a smoker is exposed to secondhand smoke, a “priming” dose of nicotine in the brain increases the need for nicotine in the brain, adding that this mechanism may explain why adult smokers who are exposed to multiple sources of nicotine. passive smoking have difficulty in initiating and maintaining abstinence, compared to smokers without such exposure.

The Sunday Observer spoke with University of Colombo Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Dr. Ravindra Fernando, who has long campaigned against smoking, to explain what passive smoking is for the benefit of our people. readers.

He said: “Second-hand smoking, also known as ‘environmental tobacco smoke‘ is the combination of smoke from the lit end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by smokers. It is inhaled involuntarily or passively by someone who does not smoke.

According to him, environmental tobacco smoke is generated in two main ways – namely, from the lateral flow (the burning end) of a cigarette, pipe or cigar or from the exhaled mainstream. (the smoke blown by smokers) of cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

Asked about the health risks secondhand smoke could pose to human health, he said: “Second-hand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. It could cause many health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, pneumonia, ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Second-hand smoke damages the body in different ways. Adults exposed to second-hand smoke may experience:

Cardiovascular diseases (heart, veins and arteries) such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke.

Lung problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Increased risk of lung cancer and cancers of the brain, bladder, stomach, breast and more.

Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to cough, sneeze, shortness of breath or other breathing problems, have frequent ear infections, and have frequent and more severe asthma attacks.

Respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Damage to the eyes (such as cataracts) and teeth (such as tooth decay).

Learning and behavior problems.

He debunked the myths that these serious health risks could be minimized if the level of exposure to this toxic smoke was reduced by the smoker, stressing that “there is NO safe level of exposure associated with the smoker. passive smoking “.

Protecting us from toxic fumes in public places, he said, “The only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones is to create 100% smoke-free environments. Simply opening a window, sitting in a separate area, or using ventilation, air conditioning or a fan cannot eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke.

If someone in your home, restaurant, office, or anywhere around you smokes, you smoke too. You too can get lung cancer and the other diseases now known to be associated with smoking. You too run the same increased risks of getting sick and, incidentally, of dying.

He warned that studies have shown that damage from secondhand smoke occurs in as little as five minutes: after five minutes, the arteries become less flexible, just as they do in a person who smokes a cigarette. After 20 to 30 minutes: The blood begins to clot and the fatty deposits in the blood vessels increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

After two hours: An irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) can develop and trigger a heart attack or other serious heart problems. He added that although anyone exposed can be affected, second-hand smoke affects unborn children and their mothers. Lower amounts of oxygen available to the baby can increase the fetal heart rate or reduce birth weight. Women can experience miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, or ectopic pregnancy.

“There is no treatment for inhaling second-hand smoke. If you are in an area with smokers on a regular basis, find a smoke-free place, ”he said.

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