Passive smoking, also known as second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke, is when a person breathes in toxic fumes that have remained in the air or surrounding objects after a cigarette has been smoked. It also refers to exposure of unborn babies to their mother’s smoke.
There are three types of passive smoke :
- Mainstream smoke : breathed in and breathed out by a smoker
- Side-stream smoke : floating off the end of a lit cigarette
- Third-hand smoke : smoke that has been absorbed into clothing or furniture
Passive smoke is classed as cancer-causing by the World Health Organization and there are no safe levels of exposure. Passive smoking can cause premature death, disease and disability in adults and children.
In adults: passive smoking is known to cause lung cancer, coughing, wheezing and other illnesses such as coronary heart disease.
In children: passive smoking can increase the severity of asthma symptoms and lead to new asthma cases. It can also cause coughing and wheezing and other illnesses such as middle-ear problems.
There are over 4,000 chemicals generated during the burning and smoking of tobacco products. Of these, over 250 chemicals are known to be toxic or cancer-causing.