Second-hand smoke can cause COPD in non-smokers

Second-hand smoke can cause COPD in non-smokers

Exposure to second-hand smoke in working and living environments can cause serious health problems, such as serious lung diseases.

Even if you’re not a smoker yourself, inhaling the second-hand smoke from other people’s cigarettes or cooking fires can cause you some serious harm.

An inflammatory lung disease that can be caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or cigarette smoke, is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Not all people who get COPD are smokers, and studies have shown that about 15% of cases are work-related.

Types of second-hand smoke

The smoke exhaled by a smoker is called mainstream smoke, and the smoke from a lighted end of a cigarette or pipe or cigar is called side stream smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and it contains the same harmful chemicals that smokers inhale.

Second-hand smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.But cancer is not the only thing second-hand some can cause: it is also implicated in heart disease and stroke, it increases the risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and can cause serious health problems in older children, such as asthma, ear infections and pneumonia.

Smoke from other sources

Even third-hand smoke can be problematic – these are the harmful cigarettes chemicals that linger on surfaces, such as carpets and curtains and upholstery long after the cigarette has been extinguished.

But cigarettes, cigars and pipes are not the only source of harmful smoke. Half the world’s population use biomass fuel for cooking. This frequently also happens indoors and can contribute to the development of COPD. Other sources of indoor air pollution that can lead to lung diseases are the burning of mosquito coils in malaria areas, gas stoves and appliances, fireplaces, candles and incense says the World Health Organization.

It is clear that the banning of smoking in public places in many countries is only the beginning in the fight against the harmful effects of second-hand smoke on the health of both children and adults.


In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.


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