It is an individual’s choice whether to smoke or not. However, exposing non-smokers and children to environmental tobacco smoke, (ETS), is a different concern. ETS are particles emitted from a burning cigarette, pipe, or cigar and smoke exhaled by a smoker. Did you know that secondhand smoke has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency? This rating is used only for substances proven to cause cancer in humans.
Non-smokers: The following statistics (in the U.S. alone), from the American Cancer Society, are caused by second-hand smoke:
- About 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults occur annually.
- Each year an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in non-smokers who live with smokers.
- Secondhand smoke causes breathing problems in non-smokers, such as coughing, chest discomfort and reduced lung function.
- In children under 18 months, there are approximately 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections (pneumonia and bronchitis), resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospital stays annually.
- Asthma attacks in children with asthma range from 200,000 to 1 million each year.
If your workplace doesn’t have a policy that protects non-smokers from exposure to ETS, try to get it to start one. Either ban smoking indoors or designate a separately ventilated room that nonsmokers do not have to enter while performing their job responsibilities.
If you are a smoker, think about the effect this has on your body, as well as your family or friends. Small children are unable to breathe fresh air while they are around smoke. They are trapped while riding in a closed car with someone smoking. Advice from many smokers is “if you haven’t started smoking – don’t! It’s expensive and a hard habit to break.” Think about it. Everyone has the right to choose to smoke or not, just as in any other habit, but most of the time when they start smoking, they aren’t thinking about how it will play out in their health or the health of others later on.