Arguments for passive smoking - A Guide to Stop Smoking

As you might imagine, people in favour of a total ban on smoking in public places are vociferous in their opposition to smoking. They argue that not only is it a danger to the smoker but is even more harmful to the ‘passive smoker’ as they are inhaling in unfiltered smoke. This means a higher level of toxins and known carcinogens.

A certain percentage of people die from lung cancer each year as a result of passive smoking. And this rises for people affected by smoke at work or in a public place.

Even if it is the case that there is a lower risk to the non-smoker, there is still some risk which means that the person is breathing in potentially harmful chemicals which will affect their health. And without any say in the matter.

The smoker has made a conscious decision to smoke whereas the passive smoker is forced to against his/her will.

If you are a smoker then you are probably familiar with the risks of smoking to yourself but how aware are you of the risks to others? What about the risks to babies and children?

If you smoke at home then there is a high degree of risk to babies and children. Children are especially susceptible to the effects of cigarette smoke which is mainly due to the fact that they are still growing and tend to breath at a much faster rate. This means that they are likely to inhale smoke much faster than an adult.

The effects of passive smoking on children are:

  • Increased risk of developing asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • More prone to colds, coughs, chest infections and sore throats.
  • Increased risk of ear, nose and throat infections.
  • More likely to suffer from ear infections, ‘glue ear’ (middle ear condition) or fluid in the ears.
  • Smaller, less developed lungs: this reduces their ability to function normally.
  • General health is poor: more likely to require hospital treatment.
  • Impaired immune system which means that they will take longer to recover from a disease or illness.
  • Increased risk of meningitis.
  • May develop a heart condition or at increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • Reduced sense of smell.
  • Low birth weight: this means that the child is likely to be in poor health and will remain so into adulthood. This will result in an increased risk of diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure.
  • Increased risk of cot death (babies)
  • Poor cognitive skills as compared to children from a non-smoking environment.
  • Increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and cancer in adulthood.
  • Increased chance of them becoming smokers when they are older.

Cigarette smoke is also harmful to the unborn baby. If you are not a smoker but are exposed to a smoke filled environment then it can have adverse affects on your baby.

These include the risk of a miscarriage or a stillborn baby: or your baby being of a low birth weight which will cause health problems in its first year of life. And these will stay with the baby throughout its childhood and beyond.

If you want to know more about this then visit our Smoking and Pregnancy section.

How big a problem is passive smoking?

The health risks are lower than those for smokers but estimates show that passive smoking may account for more than 2,000 deaths a year, in people aged 20 to 65. (Source: Patient UK)

And around 17,000 children a year (under 5) require hospital treatment as a result of passive smoking (parents who smoke at home). (Source: Patient UK)

You might assume that because you can’t see or smell any smoke that you are safe but did you know that smoke lingers in a room for up to two hours or more!

And it’s even worse in a car! If you enjoy having a smoke in your car then think about your passengers as they are forced to inhale all those toxins and in a confined space.

Supporters of passive smoking want a total ban on smoking in public but as you can imagine this isn’t popular with everyone. They argue that this would be better for everyone’s health, would mean no unpleasant smells and kinder to the environment.

But opponents of this see this is as an infringement of their civil liberties. In other words, adults should be able to make their own minds up about whether they smoke or not.

This is discussed in greater detail in our Smoking Ban section.

Passive smoking - Guide to Stop Smoking Index:

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