Harmful Effects of Passive Smoking

“Smoking is injurious to health”. You would have seen this printed on the label of every cigarette packet. However, even exposing yourself to the smoke breathed out by smokers or burning the end of a cigarette is equally dangerous.

Would you believe that passing smoke contains approx 7000 chemicals? Out of these, there are hundreds of toxic chemicals, and approx 70 are carcinogenic. The incidents of nonsmokers dying due to passive smoking are not uncommon.

Passive smoking causes serious health problems in infants and children, such as respiratory infections, severe asthma attacks, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and ear infections. Smoking during pregnancy may cause the death of infants.

Passive smoking among adults may cause disastrous health conditions such as stroke, coronary heart disease, and lung cancer.

How Passive Smoking is Affecting Your Health?

Passive smoking causes cardiovascular diseases

Passive smoking results in immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system and triggers the possibility of coronary heart disease and stroke. Secondhand smoke results in premature deaths due to heart disease among nonsmokers.

Nonsmokers are more likely to develop heart disease by 25–30% if exposed to passive smoking at work or home.

Moreover, it increases the risk of stroke by 20%-30%. Breathing in secondhand smoke affects blood vessels leading to high risks of heart-attacks.

Even a brief period of passive smoking can adversely affect the blood vessels’ lining and result in stickier blood platelets. Over time, these changes can lead to a deadly heart attack.

If you have heart-related diseases, you are more likely to suffer from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke.

Passive smoking causes Lung Cancer

Even though you may have never smoked in your life, you may end up with lung cancer due to secondhand smoke. The passive smokers exposed to smoke at home or work are at high risk of contracting lung cancer by 20-30%.

Passive smokers inhale the same cancer-causing toxins and chemicals as smokers do. Even a brief period of exposure to secondhand smoke is enough to damage the cells in the lungs and trigger the cancer process.

The prolonged duration with increased frequency of exposure to smoke in nonsmokers significantly increases the risks of developing lung cancer.

Passive smoking causes SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) refers to the unexpected and unexplained death of an infant within the first year after birth. Secondhand smoke puts infants at increased risk for SIDS.

Pregnant women who smoke during pregnancy and those who smoke after giving birth expose their infants to far greater SIDS risk.

The chemicals released during secondhand smoke affects the functioning of the brain resulting in abnormal infants breathing.

Infants who die due to SIDS are found to contain higher cotinine levels and higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs compared to infants who die due to other causes.

Passive smoking affects children

Passive smoking leads to serious health issues in kids. It makes them sick more frequently and puts them at increased risks of bronchitis and pneumonia.

The lungs of kids exposed to secondhand smoke don’t show healthy and normal growth.

The kids affected by passive smoking are more likely to show wheezing and coughing than children who are not exposed. Secondhand smoke can also trigger an asthma attack in kids.

Passive smoking can worsen severe asthma attacks and increase its frequency in kids with respiratory disorders. Children exposed to secondhand smoke complain of ear infections more often and may experience the fluid in their ear tubes.

Passive smoking affects unborn babies

Passive smoking and active smoking by pregnant women can adversely affect the growth and development of the fetus. Secondhand smoke increases ectopic pregnancy risks, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight in infants.

Moreover, passive smoking also increases the chances of birth complications that may result in an unhealthy birth.

Passive smoking triggers tobacco-related diseases

Nonsmokers who live with people who smoke are at high risks of a wide range of tobacco-related diseases. Secondhand smoke in such individuals causes lower levels of antioxidant vitamins in the blood.

Prolonged exposure to passive smoking may result in the narrowing of the arteries. It also increases the risk of throat cancer, breast cancer, larynx cancer, and nasal sinus cancer.

It may cause various long- and short-term respiratory symptoms like loss of lung function and COPD in nonsmokers.

Tips for Reducing Risks of Passive Smoking

  • Ensure to keep your home smoke-free. If you are a smoker, then create a smoking zone for yourself at the terrace, balcony, or any other ventilated area that releases the smoke into the atmosphere.
  • Ask your visitors to smoke outside the house. Avoid smoking inside your car, even when you are not driving.
  • Avoid smoking in enclosed spaces such as garage, caravan, shed, etc. Ensure to prevent your kids from exposure to secondhand smoke in outdoor areas.
  • Ensure that your kids’ tutors or coaches give them a smoke-free learning environment at schools or playgrounds.
  • Educate your kids against the harmful effects of active and passive smoking.
  • Strictly avoid exposure to passive and active smoking during pregnancy.
  • Install a high-quality air purifier in your rooms at home or the office for ensuring that you and your family breathe in clean air and avoid exposure to passive smoking.


The high risks associated with passive smoking are compelling enough for you to give up smoking and avoid even remote exposure to passive smoking. The safety of your family members is a stronger motivation to give up smoking completely.

When a smoker breathes out the smoke after smoking cigarettes, the smoke does not rise high in the air as it is heavier than air. It lies in mid-air and poses serious risks for nonsmokers.

Among many other measures, air purifiers work great for reducing exposure to passive smoking in the indoor environment. It captures the smoke particle that stays suspended in the air and blows out clean air for breathing.


Preksha is passionate about writing articles that will inspire readers to make better choices. You will find her eating desserts for lunch, dinner and any time of the day. Also, she is the chief playlist engineer for any road trip.

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