It might sound like cigarette smoke versus vapor are indistinguishable from each other, as the definitions for both simply state that it’s involuntary smoke that someone inhales from others. We’ve all dealt with secondhand cigarette smoke whether or not we have a smoker in our lives, and many probably think that inhaling a little is harmless.
However, both versions can have effects on the human body. For those who are around secondhand smoke on a regular basis, the effects on the lungs are nearly as threatening as smoking cigarettes. It can cause lung cancer, damage to blood vessels, and can even raise cholesterol.
Secondhand smoke effects on the body
For children who are around secondhand smoke often, either because they live in a smoking area or their parents are smokers, they have a larger risk for serious health problems due to their still growing bodies. They can suffer diseases to their lungs, asthma attacks, and coughs, some of which can still plague them in their adult life.
In addition, being near smokers while pregnant, no matter what stage the woman happens to be in, can be tied to mental health disorders, premature birth, birthing problems, and other complications.
Lung cancer, a common problem for smokers, also peaks up in those who are around secondhand smoke but have never smoked themselves. In addition to brain cancer, loss of voice, and a dependence on an oxygen tube, all of which can be a problem for those exposed to second-hand smoke.
There isn’t a minimum level of second-hand smoke you can be exposed to and be free from symptoms, and breathing it can really cause problems, especially if it is breathed in regularly.
Where secondhand smoke can be found
- In the workplace: For some workplaces that allow smoking, either in designated rooms or outside the buildings, that can be the main breeding ground for nonsmokers to gain exposure to secondhand smoke. Even if the air is regularly cleaned and ventilated, or the smoking section is at the other end of the building, there is still a risk.
- Restaurants and other public places: These are starting to become a rarity, but entering a public place that allows smoking, such as a casino, will expose you to secondhand smoke. In the case of a casino or other building where smoking is completely unrestricted, the secondhand smoke can reach dangerous levels.
- Homes and Cars: This is mostly the result of a smoking family member, but having a smoker in a home is extremely dangerous for anyone living there – family members, pets, and guests alike. Since smoke doesn’t necessarily go away after it is puffed, you will risk long-term exposure.
- Simply opening a window or blasting the AC won’t filter out the smoke, or the risks. The only way to completely be free from danger is to remove smoking from the equation entirely.
How to deal with secondhand smoke
If the smoker is someone you know, such as a family member or friend, try to ask them to smoke outside and away from public areas. Normally they will be happy to oblige if you tell them about the worry you have for your own health or the health of your children.
If that is impossible, for instance, if the smoker is a stranger you don’t know how to talk to, then know this: Regular smokers have habits and normally try to smoke at the same time/spot every single day, so if you judge when they smoke, you can understand when to be around that area to keep your kids safe from the effects of secondhand smoke.
In addition, try to introduce people to e-cigarettes that have their own benefits to the body.
How e-cigarettes work
E-cigarettes use battery powered heat to turn liquids, mostly made of nicotine, chemicals, and flavoring, into a gas that is breathed in through a process called vaping. This process has been shown to be less addictive than cigarettes and carries fewer health risks in the long term.
This also applies to the inhalation of e-cigarettes smoke or vapor. Since e-cigarettes do not use fire or combustion to produce their vape, there is no smoke and they won’t cause too many health problems for those who happen to inhale them.
While some of the chemicals may not be the best to breathe, they are significantly less dangerous over the long term than real secondhand smoke, especially for young children and elderly adults. They can breathe in the vapor and still show very few health effects.
Passive vs active exposure
Cigarette smoke is all about active nicotine, as cigarettes require combustion and smoke to work. Then all that nicotine-filled smoke gets exhaled into the atmosphere and into the lungs of bystanders. However, e-cigarettes use their water vapor and heat to cause their ingredients to evaporate into the air.
This passive exposure to the already evaporated nicotine and chemicals poses significantly less risk than the raw cigarette smoke, and they can’t be inhaled in strong enough dosages to cause serious harm. Some studies even show that breathing out e-cigarette smoke has less nicotine exposure than breathing out cigarette smoke.
While more studies need to be done, it is clear that breathing in the secondhand vapor won’t be as dangerous as breathing in real cigarette smoke for the same period of time.
Don’t be afraid of vapor
Many people simply wrinkle their noses in disgust and fan the air when they smell cigarette smoke or watch the person smoking before speeding their way past or leaving the area. If you see a person vaping in a restaurant or on the street, however, you don’t have to take the same precautions.
Most secondhand vapor is usually odorless or tinged with the odors of vanilla or other scents, making them smell almost like perfume. So if you aren’t averse to a little perfume scent hitting your nose once in a while, feel free to carry on with your day and know that your lungs and health are completely safe, when someone decides to vape.