Secondhand smoke or extreme air pollution – what’s worse?

Secondhand smoke or extreme air pollution – what’s worse?

Living with someone who smokes indoors is equivalent to living in a heavily polluted city, experts say.

According to a new study published in Tobacco Control, nonsmokers who live with smokers are exposed to triple the World Health Organization’s recommended safe levels of harmful air particles.

Researchers collected air quality data from nearly 100 smoking and 20 nonsmoking households. They found that the concentration of fine particulate matter was about 10 times higher in the homes with smokers than in the nonsmoking homes.

The researchers estimated that a person living in a smoking household would inhale about 5.8 grams of fine particulate matter over 80 years. This is similar to the amount of fine particular matter inhaled by people who live in cities with high levels of air pollution, they said.

“Smokers often express the view that outdoor air pollution is just as much a concern as secondhand smoke in their home,” said study author Dr. Sean Semple, in a news release. “These measurements show that secondhand tobacco smoke can produce very high levels of toxic particles in your home. Much higher than anything experienced outside in most towns and cities.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that since 1964, 2.5 million non-smokers have died as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.

If a smoking household became smoke-free, nonsmokers would inhale about 70 percent less fine particulate matter per day, the researchers said. The reductions would be most significant for very young children and seniors.

“Smoking is just about the worst thing you can do to yourself and the people around you,” says Dr. Adam Posner, a pulmonologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “It damages the lungs, heart and vascular system, and can even lead to cancer.”

For five quick tips for quitting smoking, along with many other resources that smokers can access to get help quitting, please click here.

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  1. October 22, 2014 at 8:37 am · Reply

    second hand smoke is really bad for people with asthma

  2. Just an FYI: The photo shows water vapor rising off of a nuclear power plant which is not air pollution.

  3. The CDC also recently released a study stating that banning smoking in subsidized housing would save $500 million dollars a year in various expenses. That is a 1/2 billion dollars. Which is a lot of money. Did not know there specialty was real estate.

    This agency seems hellbent on studying the same topics over and over again. Is it any wonder they were ill prepared for Ebola in the US?

  4. Again, I know I ask this a lot for articles on ahchelathenews, please provide a link to the articles this article is referring to. It provides a better back drop to the conversation. I am thankful that the journal’s name was provided, but a link would have been the cherry on top!
    On that note, a scientific study coming from a journal titled TOBACCO CONTROL should be viewed at best with caution and at worst as propaganda. And I honestly don’t know because I can’t find the actual research article to read!
    However, I would love to actually see the difference or similarity that Air pollution and a smoker’s actual living condition have. This is a great topic to discuss. If we, as a society, were half as fervent as stopping air pollution as we are at campaigning against personal tobacco our entire world would be better off! That’s where I would love to see the direction of this conversation go.

    • anon:

      You are asking too much. Easier to highlight certain points from a “study” and repackage the results as scare tactics . . er . . “findings.” Then Advocate PR finds a staff member to comment on; regardless of their credentials.

      What I would like to see is a “study” done with Advocate denouncing the findings. That would take real balls to go against the grain. So much money tied to producing more studies. Heathcare costs out of control. In the instance of the subject, you would think with smoking rates supposedly at or below 20% with even a smaller population not smoking in their homes, this issue would be of little concern.

      • Sarah Scroggins

        Hi Jefferson,

        As always thanks for your feedback. The purpose of this site is exactly that: to compile information on the latest studies and offer feedback and insight from our experts to inform the general public. But we also want to make it easier for our readers to access this information and make it understandable for them.

        Thanks for reading!

      • Thank you, Sarah.

    • Sarah Scroggins

      Hi anon,
      We generally try to link to the original study, and in some cases it’s not readily available online if it is in a print journal. We appreciate your feedback. Here is a link to the article from the journal on this topic:

  5. Folks who still smoke are in denial / or do not care how smoke affects their family MY dear hubby smoked 55 yrs- in denial the whole time .

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.