Smoking and Secondhand Smoking

Smoking and Secondhand Smoking

Second Hand Smoking

Smoking, which is an addiction, is the most preventable cause of death in our society. The American Cancer Society estimates that cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Smoking is also associated with: — cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus (Upper intestinal tract), pancreas, cervix, kidney and bladder. Smoking accounts for about 1 out of every three cancer deaths in the United States, and is a major cause of heart disease. It is also associated with a wide range of other conditions including stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and gastric (stomach) ulcers. Approximately one-half of smokers begin smoking before they are 18 years of age. Smoking rates are higher among African-Americans, economically disadvantaged individuals, and those with less formal education. The tobacco industry also heavily markets cigarette smoking to people and communities of color. Therefore, people of color and especially their youth are very vulnerable to the industry’s targeted advertising and promotion efforts.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds including more than 40 cancer producing (carcinogenic) substances. According to a U.S. Surgeon General’s report, nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addition. There are major and immediate benefits from smoking cessation, or quitting smoking. They include a decreased risk of multiple cancers, heart disease and stroke.

Use of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is a very addictive habit that is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.

Six Quick Tips about cigarette smoking follow.

  • There is no safe way to smoke.
  • Most people who develop lung cancer die from it.
  • Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage, premature baby, or stillbirth.
  • Menthol cigarettes, which more African-Americans smoke, are not safer than non-menthols.
  • People who don’t smoke are likely to live longer.
  • Nursing mothers and caregivers who smoke double or triple an infant’s chances of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also described in our glossary.


Secondhand Smoking

Parental and other secondhand smoking has a negative effect on the health of others in the same indoor environment. Other terms for secondhand smoking, are environmental tobacco smoking (or ETS), and passive smoking. Smoking in households with children increases their chances of developing chronic coughs, respiratory infections, and ear infections. For children with asthma, ETS makes their disease more serious. Maternal smoking (to us, that means all smoking in the household) may increase the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Non-smokers who are exposed to the tobacco smoke of others, called secondhand smokers or passive smokers, in essence are involuntary smokers. Environmental tobacco smoke also causes heart disease and lung cancer. It can also cause asthmatic conditions. Children in households where one or both parents smoke have more respiratory illnesses and infections of the middle ear (otitis media).

Other situations frequently associated with being an involuntary secondhand smoker include:

  • non-smoking spouses or partners of smokers
  • exposure to smokers in bars and restaurants


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema: Major Complications of Smoking

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is chronic or long-term lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which causes long-term swelling and a large amount of mucus in the main airways of the lungs
  • Emphysema, a lung disease that destroys the air sacs in the lungs

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and most people with COPD have symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The more a person smokes, the more likely that person will develop severe bronchitis and emphysema. Secondhand smoke may also cause chronic bronchitis. Air pollution, infection, and allergies make chronic bronchitis worse.

Other risk factors for COPD are:

  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
  • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
  • Frequent use of cooking gas without proper ventilation

Information on COPD risk factors, symptoms and treatment follows.

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women, and most of these deaths are preventable. That’s because cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. In fact, about 90 percent (that’s 9 out of every 10) of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. A key reason for the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is the fact that tobacco smoke contains more than 3,500 chemicals, 40 0f which are cancer-causing, or carcinogens. Cigarettes also contain more than 30 toxic metals such as nickel, cadmium, and radioactive substances.

While lung cancer used to be primarily a disease of men, as more women became smokers, more women developed lung cancer, as compared to men. Smoking is also associated with a number of other tobacco related diseases including, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. More Information on lung cancer including additional risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are provided in our special Section on Lung Cancer.

For helpful Health Power Quit Smoking Tip Sheets, click here.

For information on Pathways to Freedom: A guide to help African Americans quit smoking and a FREE copy, click here.

Note: In Health Power’s opinion, the guide has helpful tips for anyone who wants to quit smoking, without regard of his or her race or ethnicity.