Did you know that most people are at the risk of dying from just breathing the air around them? Every day at least ninety-five percent of American people suffer from (E.T.S.) Environmental Tobacco Smoke, or more commonly known as second hand smoke. For those that are not familiar with what second hand smoke is let me explain it to you. Second hand smoke is a mixture of the smoke exhaled by smokers and the smoke that comes from the burning ends of cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. This smoke contains about 4,000 substances in which about fifty percent of these toxic substances can cause cancer and other bodily problems. Environmental Tobacco Smoke has been a problem for many years, but through intense research from many physicians, non-smokers are finally getting the respect they deserve. Smokers now have to smoke outside of public places. While some non-smokers ignore the dangers involved with tobacco smoke others are struggling to live another day.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke is made up of both a gas phase and a particulate phase. Together they include more than 4,000 substances. Automatic tobacco-puffing machines have been invented to collect and to study the smoke. In recent years studies have shown us the most hazardous of these chemicals. Tar is considered the deadliest of all the substances. Other chemicals found in tobacco smoke that are hazardous to us are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carboxyhemoglobin, and nicotine (Mendelson and Mello 33-35). During the burning process of tobacco the tip of the burning cone (the center of the pipe, cigarette, and or cigar) reaches a temperature of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit during a puff. This tiny blast furnace results in a miniature chemical plant, which uses the hundreds of available materials to produce many more. In fact, some of the most important part of tobacco smoke (including tar and carbon monoxide) are not even present in an unburned phase of a tobacco product, but rather are produced when a puff is taken (Mendelson and Mello 37-38). Other studies have shown that indoor environmental tobacco smoke changes the tobacco substance in the gas phase. As tobacco smoke is discharged into an indoor environment, diluted, re-circulated within and vented from the indoor environment, changes occur in both its chemical makeup phases. Making the gas phase substance more harmful than being in a outdoor environment (Ecobichon and Wu 3-4).
Tobacco products produce two kinds of smoke, mainstream and sidestream. Mainstream smoke is the smoke that smokers inhale into their lungs. Sidestream smoke is the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker. The average smoker inhales ten two-second puffs of mainstream smoke from the tobacco product they are smoking. As the cigarette, pipe, or cigar sits it releases waves of sidestream smoke into the air. According to some scientists, sidestream smoke is even more dangerous than mainstream smoke. In a recent article produced by the Iowa Medical Society it states that sidestream smoke contains five times the carbon monoxide, three times the tar and nicotine, and up to fifty times the number of carcinogens found in mainstream smoke. A study reported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences confirms that second-hand smoke contains up to fifty times more carcinogens (Ling et al. 92). Carcinogens are described in the Webster’s dictionary as being a substance that produces a malignant tumor, or cancer in a living cell (Landoll et al. 71).
In today’s society people are aware that tobacco smoke is unhealthy, but most choose not to become concerned with what this chemical does to their bodies. With the amount of smokers in today’s society, Environmental Tobacco Smoke has diluted are air with thousands of chemicals that causes severe damage to both our inner and exterior body components. Doctor Ameron of Atlanta Georgia writes that six out of ten non-smokers will end up with reduced lung functioning and or upper or lower respiratory problems. According to Ameron, secondhand smoke is even more dangerous than mainstream smoke. He also states that breathing tobacco smoke can aggravate the condition of people with allergies or with lung, heart, or respiratory problems. Sufferers with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, for instance, are made extremely uncomfortable by severe air pollution. Yet the levels of carbon monoxide and other pollutants in smoke-filled rooms may be as high or higher than those that occur during air pollution emergencies (Berger 81-87). According to a Health Advocate Magazine, research from different physicians show that Environmental Tobacco Smoke can cause severe heart conditions, and assorted respiratory problems by being exposed to the smoke for a period of time. Even perfectly healthy people are affected by second-hand smoke. Their heart rate, blood pressure, and the level of carbon monoxide in the blood increase when they breathe in air full of tobacco smoke. Also, even after nonsmokers leave a smoky room, it takes hours for the carbon monoxide to leave their bodies. Unlike oxygen, which is breathed in and then out again in minutes, carbon monoxide remains in the blood for long periods of time (Smith 27-29).
Passive smoking, involuntary smoking, secondary smoking, second-hand smoking-all are terms that refer to nonsmokers who are forced to breathe in smoke from smokers in the same room. The Surgeon General’s reports stressed the health effects of second-hand smoke, which can be as serious, or even more serious than the effects of direct smoking (Cain 189-195)
The amount of smoke taken in by non-smokers should be considered. Major research projects conducted in the United States, Japan, and Greece found that nonsmoking wives of smoking husbands each day inhaled cigarette smoke equivalent to smoking six tobacco products by themselves. Another researcher placed twenty-one smokers and twenty-eight nonsmokers in a room. The smokers lit a cigarette every fifteen minutes for an hour and a half. The figures showed that, if extended to eight hours, the nonsmokers would have had as much smoke in their lungs as from smoking five cigarettes (Hammond 212-215).
The American Cancer Society in 1996 developed a scientific research that shows the cause and number of deaths to nonsmokers in one year for twenty-five different states. The calculations yield an estimated United States annual total of 3,000 lung cancer deaths, 11,000 deaths from other cancers, and 32,000 deaths from heart disease, giving a combined total of 46,000 deaths. Other research from the American Cancer Society estimate that a total of sixty-one percent of male nonsmokers and seventy-six of female nonsmokers were exposed to Environmental Tobacco smoke. Among these percentages the overall exposure fractions were adjusted to give higher fractions at younger ages and lower fractions at older ages. This indicates that younger individuals are more exposed to Environmental Tobacco Smoke than older adults (Bender 58-76).
During a research that I created, I asked fifty nonsmoking adults (males, females) a series of questions. The questions I asked were: When you are around second hand smoke do you notice any discomforting problems? Do you find that the problems you have due to secondhand smoke are worse in an indoor or outdoor environment? Do you try to avoid associating yourself with smokers? Why? The majority answered that second hand smoke causes their eyes to burn and they notice some discomfort in their breathing to the first question. On the second question the majority answered that second hand smoke effects them more when they are in a secluded building. On the third question they all answered that they do try to avoid smokers, but it is hard especially when the majority of people they deal with at work, or in public places smoke. In the last question the individuals I interviewed said that they do not want to die because of someone else’s dirty habits. I learned that people in some degree do understand the cautions involved with second hand smoke. Nonsmokers find it to be disturbing when a smoker feels comfortable to “light up” their cigarette without being respectful to those that do not smoke.
Study’s show that Environmental tobacco smoke can cause sever damage to adults, but the results to children are far more serious. Research from the American Cancer Society show’s the damages to an unborn baby exposed to involuntary tobacco smoke. During pregnancy the number of heartbeats per minute in the mother increases from approximately seventy to around ninety. The rise in the number of contractions of the heart places an extra demand on the heart muscle, thereby increasing its need for oxygen. The heart of the fetus, which starts beating approximately ten weeks after conception, also has a high rate of contraction at about one hundred and forty beats per minute. This shows that a baby requires a lot of oxygen as well. Second-hand smoke as stated in the same article can raise the number of heart beats to both the mother and the unborn child. The result to this situation puts the fetus in great danger. The fetus could die in the mother’s womb, or the unborn child could be born with serious birth conditions. For example, the newborn child could develop heart problems, asthma, allergies, reduced lung functioning, spinal meningitis, or emphysema. These problems a child could develop may only be short or a long-term problem. Other studies show that a child under the age of three could die from sudden infant death syndrome if exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for long periods of time. Sudden infant death syndrome also called crib death is a frightening condition in which apparently healthy, normal infants suddenly stop breathing and die. Although scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint the cause, they have found that a much higher percentage of babies of mothers who smoked (seventy percent) died from crib death than did babies of nonsmoking mothers (Fried 24-25). Another research formed by the American Heart Society states that children of smoking parents are subject to an increased incidence of all types of disease. According to one major study, in their first year of life, babies of parents who smoke at home have a much higher chance of developing a lung disease, specifically bronchitis and pneumonia (an inflammation caused by bacteria, virus of the lungs, or irritation), than babies with nonsmoking parents. In comparison with older children and adults, babies have fewer defenses against substances they inhale, including pollutants and germs (Oxhorn 55-57).
A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed reduced lung functioning in children whose mother smoke cigarettes. There is also evidence that once lung disease begins in childhood, it can continue and even worsen over a lifetime. Other Scientific discoveries show that sixty-five percent of children that live with parents who smoke have chronic learning disabilities, and abnormal growth patterns. Researchers have recognized such problems as these to be a leading cause of depression amongst teens; leading to suicide (Lebowitz 171-172).
In this research I have discussed the make up of environmental tobacco Smoke and the damages it can cause to non-smoking adults and children. It is clear that this deadly chemical is unhealthy to our everyday lives. Second-hand smoke is harmful to our society, and will continue to be unless we as people take a stand for our children and ourselves. Do not let this hazardous material control your life. Avoid all types of tobacco smoke to assure a healthy life for you and your families. This is one major step in making our world a healthier place to live.
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Ecobichon, Donald and Wu, Joseph. Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Proceedings of the International Symposium at McGill University 1989. McGill University: Montreal, Canada. November 3 and 4 1989. 616.86.
Fried, Peter and Oxorn, Harry. Smoking For Two: Cigarettes and Pregnancy. The Free Press. “A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.” New York, New York. Collier Macmillan Publishers. Canada. April 05, 1980. 618.32
Landoll, Inc et. Al. Webster’s Dictionary: New Revised and Expanded Edition. Landoll Inc. Ashland, Ohio. 1993. 71.
Lebowitz, M.D., and Holberg C.H. Effects of parental smoking and other risk factors on the development of pulmonary function in children and adolescents. Am. J. Epidemiol. Massachusetts/ Toronto. February 24, 1988. 982.47