An academic at Newcastle University has teamed up with the campaign group Fresh to raise awareness of the health impacts of breathing in other people’s smoke.

The Second-Hand Smoke Is Poison campaign aims to highlight how tobacco smoke can hang around in a home for up to five hours and sneak from room to room, exposing both adults and children to a hazardous cocktail of chemicals.

Dr Malcom Brodlie, who is a clinical senior lecturer at Newcastle University and a consultant at the Great North Children’s Hospital, said, “Breathing in second-hand smoke is harmful to people of all age groups, but children are especially vulnerable as their lungs are still developing and they breathe faster than adults, so inhale more of the harmful poisons.”

“There is no safe level of exposure.”

“We see the effects of this on hospital wards too often. Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to have problems with asthma attacks and chest infections and need more hospital care and doctors’ appointments.”

“Most parents take this seriously when they realise that their smoking may be making their child unwell and want to do something positive about it.” 

Children can experience a number of health problems due to passive smoking, such as asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections, meningitis and even sudden infant death syndrome. 

Adults who frequently breathe in second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from strokes, heart disease and lung cancer.

People often do not realise they are breathing in second-hand smoke as 85% of smoke is invisible and has no smell.

Many of the steps smokers take to try to limit the impact of their smoke on others – such as smoking by an open window or back door or going into another room – are largely ineffective. 

A 2010 report by the Royal College of Physicians estimated that second-hand smoke resulted in 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma in UK children each year.

The report found passive smoking also led to more than 20,000 annual cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease and 200 cases of meningitis in British children, as well as 40 sudden infant deaths.

At least one in ten north-east children are thought to be exposed to dangerous levels of tobacco smoke in their homes.

The director of Fresh, Alisa Rutter, said, “When someone lights a cigarette, they are setting fire to a cocktail of chemicals and industrial pollutants.” 

“Every parent wants to protect their children. However, many smokers think they are already doing enough by smoking at a window or opening a back door, without realising how poisonous second-hand smoke spreads around the house and lingers.”

“Smokers we have talked to felt this was important information to know, even if the facts are shocking.”

“If they aren’t thinking about quitting then taking it right outside is the best way to ensure they don’t put their family’s health at risk.”

In addition to gaining the support of Dr Brodlie, Fresh are working with the British Lung Foundation on their Second-Hand Smoke is Poison campaign.

The chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, Dr Penny Woods, said, “Second-hand smoke is poison, with potential to cause severe damage to children’s health in enclosed spaces.”

“Increasing awareness of these dangers through vital educational campaigns, like this one, is the key to helping people protect their families’ health.”

(Featured image courtesy of Bobby, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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