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Could You Be Exposing Yourself to Secondhand Smoke… and Not Even Know It?

by Rose Marie Walano 3:00 AM, August 3, 2018

Aired August 3, 2018

Everyone knows that smoking can have a tremendous negative impact on your health.

And secondhand smoke? Even brief exposure can be harmful to your health.

But here's a question you might not have even thought of: Could you be exposing yourself to secondhand smoke… and not even know it?

"Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and workplaces," explains best-selling author and physician Dr. Ian Smith, who partnered with us and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to tell us more about secondhand smoke. "But there is risk for exposure in public places like restaurants, bars and casinos, as well as in cars and other vehicles."

And the fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as a risk-free level of secondhand smoke.

"Even brief exposure can be harmful to your health," says Dr. Ian. "When someone smokes, secondhand smoke can linger in indoor areas for several hours. It's not like, 'I stopped and I left. It's still in there!"

That smoke, even just traces of it, are filled with chemicals — potentially more than 7,000 chemicals, in fact! Hundreds are known to be toxic and about 70 of them cause cancer. That's why even secondhand smoke can cause stroke, lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults, as well as asthma, respiratory infection, ear infections and even sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS) in children, says Dr. Ian.

Got your attention yet?

That's why we wanted to share the story of Ellie, who’s part of the CDC’s “Tips From Former Smokers™ Campaign.” She was never a smoker, but exposure to secondhand smoke forced her to change her entire life.
 


"I started working in bars when I was 28 years old, and I enjoyed it. And I was very successful!" says Ellie.

But when she hit her mid-30s, she had her first asthma attack. "Realizing it was triggered by secondhand smoke was a terrifying and upsetting experience," she says.

"Every night, I went into the bar and was surrounded by smoke, I could feel my lungs getting tighter," Ellie continues. "It was getting to a point, after a number of years, that I knew I couldn't do it anymore."

The fact of the matter is, there are still 23 states that don't have comprehensive smoke-free laws, to help you protect your health. But there are measures that can be taken.

And that includes helping the people closest to you to quit smoking, so you can all live in a healthy, smoke-free environment.

The CDC has a ton of info on how you can protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke, plus resources to help you or someone you love quit smoking. Head over to their website at cdc.gov/tips for more information. Or call 1-800-Quit-Now for free help.