Passive Smoking - Cigarettes, Cancer & Second Hand Smoke

Cigarettes and Second Hand Smoke

Is passive smoking merely a smelly irritant or does breathing in someone else's tobacco smoke cause long-term health damage and even death? It really depends on which medical journals you read.

According to the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) passive smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%. Its explosive research, released in November 2004, said the majority of research now showed that passive smoking was damaging to health.

"It is evident that no infant, child or adult should be exposed to second-hand smoke," the report concluded.

It contradicted an earlier report, published in the British Medical Journal in 2003 by James Enstrom of the University of California , which claimed that exposure to second-hand smoke "was not significantly associated with death from coronary heart disease or lung cancer at any time or at any level of exposure".

The British pro smokers' lobby group FOREST believes SCOTH's research is flawed. It claims there have been over 150 studies on passive smoking and the results are inconclusive. A FOREST representative complains: "All we ever hear are estimates, calculations and statistics. Where is the hard evidence that people are dying of passive smoking?"

According to Professor Konrad Jamrozik, from Imperial College in London , there is strong evidence about the dangers of passive smoking. Almost 5,000 people die annually in the UK after being exposed to tobacco smoke in their own homes or workplace, according to his research. Past estimates have claimed that it caused about 1,000 deaths a year in the UK . Prof Jamrozik claims at least one death a week can be attributed to those working in the hospitality industry.

Remember musician and broadcaster Roy Castle? He died of lung cancer despite never having smoked. His death was attributed to the many years he spent playing the trumpet in smoky pubs and clubs.

Prof Jamrozik's research went on to claim that 3,600 people under 65 died each year from heart disease and lung cancer caused by passive smoke in the home. In the over 65s the death toll rose to nearly 17,000 because of "long term exposure."

In America passive smoking is estimated to cause around 53,000 deaths per year.

Most of us accept that being in a smoky atmosphere can cause your eyes to itch, make you cough and give you a sore throat. But will constant exposure actually increase the likelihood of getting lung or heart disease?

There is undisputed evidence that children exposed to smoke from a very early age do have a higher incidence of glue ear and asthma. There is even research linking cot death to parents who smoke.

But Professor Richard Doll, the first scientist to suggest a link between lung cancer and smoking, has gone on record as saying: "The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."

So the evidence is contradictory and confusing. Certainly Governments around the world are taking the problem more seriously but most have stopped short of an outright ban in public places

Ireland bravely became the first country in the world to ban smoking in pubs and clubs in 2003. Cities such as New York have followed suit.

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