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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Second Hand Smoke
April 2000

Q. My husband smokes. I heard that second hand smoke is pretty bad. Is this true?

A. Yes. (ETS) Environmental tobacco smoke (Second hand smoke) is a combination of the mainstream smoked inhaled and then exhaled by a smoker, plus the smoke emitted from the burning end of the cigarette. ETS has recently been reclassified by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as a Class A carcinogen (similar to Asbestos).

There is a significant increase risk in heart disease and Lung Cancer (about 30% increase) in nonsmokers who live with or work in a smoking environment. It is estimated that in the US, 53,000 people die each year due to second hand smoke. Also, children who live in a smoking home have increase rates of upper respiratory infections and Asthma exacerbations. It is clearly important to avoid second hand smoke. At a minimum, I at least advise that the home be non-smoking, i.e. have your husband go out in the garage to smoke and you can put the blame on me!

Also, I advise that work environments be free of ETS.

Reference: http://rex.nci.nih.gov

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