a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Second-hand smoke just as dangerous

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First Published - Friday 14th January 2011 Barbados Advocate. by Patricia Thangaraj

THERE is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke. Inhaling second-hand smoke can greatly increase a person's risk of getting a heart attack and stroke and can exacerbate diabetes symptoms.

This is according to Nadia Adams Tobacco Project Officer at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB) Inc, who spoke with the Barbados Advocate yesterday.

"Second-hand smoke can contribute to making the blood vessels narrow and hard. It can make blood thicken and clot. When this happens, the blood cannot carry oxygen to the heart so the heart gets damaged and causes a heart attack. In addition, inadequate supply of oxygen impedes the healing of broken bones and bone fractures and as a result smokers themselves take 80 percent longer to heal than non-smokers she explained.

She stated that second-hand smoke is defined as the smoke that smokers exhale that persons around them Inhale, as well as the smoke from the end of a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe. “When you barn tobacco, thousands of chemicals are secreted into the air and when non-smoker breathe this second-hand smoke in, it will enter their bodies and have devastating effects since many of these chemicals are poisonous”, she stated.

Some of these poisons are cadmium, which can be found in batteries; stearic acid, which can be found in candle wax; hexamine, which can be found in barbecue lighter: toluene, which is an ingredient in industrial solvent; nicotine, which is an ingredient in insecticide; ammonia, which can be found in toilet cleaners; carbon monoxide, a car exhaust fume; methanol, which can be found in rocket fuel and arsenic, a poison.

Second-hand smoke also increases one’s chances of getting lung, throat and nose cancer; irritates the throat, eyes and nose causing them to swell; causes nausea an headaches; irritates the lungs, causes ear infections and damage the middle ear so badly that surgery may be required, causes coughing and chest pain and reduces vitamin C in the body, which may lead to poor health and stunt one’s growth.

It also contributes to allergies, bronchitis and asthma, since many persons are allergic to tobacco smoke. "Bronchitis, pneumonia and other lung diseases have been scientifically identified as a direct result of breathing second-hand smoke, sending lots of children to the hospital every year. Furthermore, children who breathe second-hand smoke are more likely to develop asthma, as their airways become very narrow, making breathing difficult. As their asthma attacks increase, each time they get worse and asthma can be life threatening and, unfortunately within Barbados asthma is on the increase especially in children," explained Adams.

"It is also important to note that secondhand smoke minimises the ability of the body to absorb insulin and hence diabetics are at great risk if exposed".

Additionally carbon monoxide can poison cells in one’s body by replacing oxygen in the blood. This is why a pregnant woman who breathes in second-hand smoke can have a smaller than normal baby, why unborn babies whose mothers are exposed to second-hand smoke will open their eyes less and move less and why they are more likely to die from sudden death syndrome.

According to the Work Health Organisation (WHO) Report on r of those premature deaths would occur in low and middle income countries - in other words precisely where it is hardest to deflect and to bear such tremendous losses.

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