“So doc, you mean, I can’t smoke at the corner with my padna (partner) and keep the mask at the side?” A question that baffled me on the radio programme, The Lunchtime Doctor, when the caller asked in a serious tone. It brought to my sudden realisation that awareness was still necessitated, in 2020, during a pandemic; on Lung Cancer, the risk factors and the benefits of smoking cessation.

– Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the UK, and smoking highlighted as the principal risk factor.

– Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.

– Each year, about 221,000 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer and about 146,000 people die from this disease.

(As reported by CDC, 2020)

Smoking is a Major Risk Factor

– About nine in 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are carcinogens. These are substances which can damage cells and lead to Lung cancer.

– Compared with non-smokers, those who smoke between one to 14 cigarettes a day have eight times the risk of dying from lung cancer. Those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day have 25 times the risk. However, the risk of lung cancer depends more on the length of time a person has smoked. So, smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years is more hazardous than smoking two packs a day for 20 years.

– Cigar smoking and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking. Smoking low-tar or “light” cigarettes increases lung cancer risk as much as regular cigarettes. Smoking menthol cigarettes might increase the risk even more since the menthol may allow smokers to inhale more deeply.

Secondhand smoke is ALSO a risk

If you don’t smoke, breathing in the smoke of others (called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is thought to cause more than 7,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and workplaces.

– There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

– Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

What is THIRDHAND SMOKE, and why is it a concern?

Thirdhand smoke is residual nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. People are exposed to these chemicals by touching contaminated surfaces or breathing in the off-gassing from these surfaces. This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix including cancer causing compounds, posing a potential health hazard to nonsmokers — especially children.

Thirdhand smoke clings to clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces long after smoking has stopped. The residue from thirdhand smoke builds up on surfaces over time. To remove the residue, hard surfaces, fabrics and upholstery need to be regularly cleaned or laundered. Thirdhand smoke can’t be eliminated by airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home.

Children and nonsmoking adults are at risk of tobacco-related health problems when they inhale, swallow or touch substances containing thirdhand smoke. Infants and young children might have increased exposure to thirdhand smoke due to their tendency to mouth objects and touch affected surfaces.

Health Effects in Adults

In adults who have never smoked, secondhand and thirdhand smoke can cause:

Heart disease

For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels.

It is estimated that secondhand smoke causes approximately 34,000 heart disease deaths each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States.

Lung cancer

Secondhand smoke exposure caused more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States.

Health Effects of Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke in Children

– Ear infections

– More frequent and severe asthma attacks

– Respiratory symptoms (for example, coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath)

– Respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)

– A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Thirdhand smoke is a relatively new concept, and researchers are still studying its possible dangers. In the meantime, the only way to protect nonsmokers from thirdhand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment.

What can you do ?

You can protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke by:

– Not allowing anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home

– Not allowing anyone to smoke in your car, even with the windows down

– Teaching your children to stay away from secondhand smoke

– Being a good role model by not smoking or using any other type of tobacco

– Quitting smoking if you are not already a nonsmoker

The benefits of QUITTING

As soon as you stop, you start to feel the benefits:

– After 20 minutes: your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.

– After one day: your body’s eliminated the carbon monoxide and your lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.

– After 72 hours: your breathing becomes easier. The bronchial tubes begin to relax and your energy levels increase.

– By two to 12 weeks your circulation has improved throughout the body.

– Between three to nine months later: your coughs and wheezing will have improved. Lung function could have increased by around 10 per cent.

– After 10 years: the risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.

Basically, “if tobacco did not exist, lung cancer would be a rare disease,” says Amanda Sandford, research manager at UK charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). A psychologist with American Cancer Society shared, “Giving up smoking is the best decision you’ll ever make.”

Look out for HEALTH PLUS every Tuesday for more informative and healthful articles. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please email [email protected]