Though the harmful effects of cigarettes and tobacco products have long since been revealed, many Americans may have forgotten about the dangers of secondhand smoking.
While legislation in recent history has removed smoking options from public areas in many states and advertising has been limited, millions of Americans still indulge in this habit.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million Americans suffer from diseases caused by smoking, but it may not always be the people who smoke themselves.1
Secondhand smoking, also known as passive smoking, can cause major health problems for loved ones on the periphery such as children, grandchildren and even pets. For medical and veterinary professionals, such as a certified veterinary technician, emphasizing the dangers smoking causes for the person with the habit is just the beginning.
For smokers to truly understand the potential harm, understanding passive smoking is pivotal. As smoking gets pushed out of bars and restaurants, as well as various other locales, it certainly benefits public health. However, passive smoking still affects millions of Americans, and is an issue that still needs to be further addressed.
How Passive Smoking Affects Others
Recent research published in the journal Circulation notes that children exposed to cigarette smoke at a young age are nearly two times as likely to develop plaque in later life that can cause heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular issues.2 The study called for more than two decades of follow-up in order to confirm the link as children entered adulthood.
The research included more than 3,000 participants from Finland, and the children were originally tested for exposure to cigarette smoke in the 1980s. Though secondhand smoking has long been suspected of causing health problems, this long-term research is providing more thorough evidence.
Dr Seana Gall, Menzies Institute senior research fellow and co-author, explained, “What we’re showing really for the first time is that this exposure in children to passive smoke is having a long-term effect on their cardiovascular health and this is a really important message to get out there.”3
However, this research does not stand alone. Numerous studies have indicated that pets such as cats and dogs also suffer from passive smoking, especially considering animals may ingest carcinogenic substances that linger on carpets and other furniture.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that dogs living in households with smokers were 60 percent more likely to develop lung cancer.4 The research also revealed that dogs with longer noses were more likely to get sinus or nasal cancer. Another study found that cats that live with smokers have nicotine in their urine, most likely from cleaning themselves after carcinogenic substances cling to their fur.5
While numerous studies regarding passive smoking continue to create a growing body of evidence, the fact is that this habit can harm people and animals in proximity to the smoker. If medical professionals provide smokers with this information, it may encourage some to kick the habit and contribute to the general health of others.
1 “Fast facts,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 24, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/
2 “Exposure to Parental Smoking in Childhood is Associated with Increased Risk of Carotid Atherosclerotic Plaque in Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study,” by Henry W. West; Markus Juonala; Seana L. Gall; Mika Kähönen; Tomi Laitinen; Leena Taittonen; Jorma S.A. Viikari;Olli T. Raitakari; Costan G. Magnussen, Circulation, March 24, 2015. http://circ.ahajournals.org/
3 “Passive smoking almost doubles childrens’ chances of developing stroke-causing plaque, researchers find,” ABC News, March 24, 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-24/passive-smoking-doubles-child-chances-of-stroke-causing-plaques/6344558
4 “Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs,” by John S. Reif, Christa Bruns and Kimberty S. Lower, American Journal of Epidemiology, Sept. 2, 1997. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/147/5/488.abstractmaxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1=reif&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT
5 “Urinary biomarkers to assess exposure of cats to environmental tobacco smoke,” by McNiel, Carmella, et al., American Journal of Veterinary Research, April 2007. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17397288