According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), second-hand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), increased asthma attack, respiratory disease, stroke, lung cancer, and many other medical conditions. Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, which released the first public notification of the dangers of smoking, approximately 2.5 million adult non-smokers died from lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke.
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation adds that the risks of second-hand smoke became evident in the 1993 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Risk Assessment, which revealed second-hand smoke as a Group A Carcinogen. Despite the incontrovertible evidence of its dangers, some businesses and places of employment do not enforce smoke-free policies, and 22 states still allow smoking in all workplaces and public places.
Toxic Chemicals in Second-hand Smoke
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, including at least 70 known carcinogens. These carcinogens, or cancer-causing toxins, cause lung cancer in individuals exposed to the smoke from a burning cigar or cigarette or the smoke a person exhales.
Contrary to popular belief, most of these chemicals exist in the tobacco leaves themselves, not the additives tobacco companies put in cigarettes to improve their flavor. Hazardous chemicals in tobacco smoke may include:
- Nicotine, a highly addictive drug
- Carbon monoxide
While scientists continue to study their long-term effects, recent studies show that the vapor from e-cigarettes, which manufacturers often market as safe, may also contain toxic or carcinogenic chemicals. The levels of these chemicals in e-cigarettes varies, as industry standardization does not exist.
Second-hand Smoke Causes Serious Conditions
For decades, many people thought that simply opening a window for ventilation or smoking in a different room away from nonsmokers protected others from the dangers of tobacco smoke. Thanks to continued research, we now know that any level of exposure can lead to serious medical conditions, and keeping people safe from the dangers of second-hand smoke requires making all public places, workplaces, and housing complexes smoke-free.
Research shows that women who smoke during their pregnancies or expose their infants to second-hand smoke increase their baby’s risk of SIDS. This condition refers to the sudden and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy infant. It occurs within the first year of life and accounts for the majority of all deaths in healthy babies.
Children whose parents, guardians, or other adults in their household smoke around them regularly become more susceptible to many medical conditions due to dangerous second-hand smoke affecting their developing organs and body systems. These conditions may include:
- Regular bronchitis or pneumonia
- Increased instances of asthma attacks
- Ear infections
Children may also experience second-hand smoke exposure at day care centers, in the apartment buildings in which they live, and in the homes and vehicles of friends or family members.
Second-hand smoke often causes serious health problems in adults, even in those who do not smoke themselves and do not spend a lot of time around smokers. Cigarette smoke has an immediate harmful effect on the body, and for some individuals, minimal exposure can lead to chronic and even fatal diseases. Over 41,000 adults die each year of diseases caused by second-hand smoke, and many more suffer long-term effects. Science has repeatedly proven links between second-hand smoke and:
- Lung disease and lung cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack
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Exposure to Second-hand Smoke in the Workplace
According to an article in the American Journal of Public Health, adults who experience second-hand smoke exposure in their workplaces increase their risk of heart disease by 25-30% and increase their risk of lung cancer by 20-30%. Unfortunately, avoiding cigarette smoke at work often presents a challenge, as the CDC notes that second-hand smoke exposure primarily affects workers with lower incomes and lower educations, particularly in the hospitality industry. In many states, the law still allows smoking in restaurants, bars, and casinos, which puts guests and employees at risk.
How an Attorney Can Help You
Second-hand smoke can cause immediate damage to the body as well as lingering, residual effects, and those with more consistent exposure at home or at work have an increased risk of developing related conditions. Sadly, individuals of a low socioeconomic status suffer the adverse effects more frequently than others due to a greater risk of exposure in workplaces and in rental homes or apartment buildings. If your exposure to second-hand smoke led to your diagnosis with a serious health condition or the loss of a loved one, an attorney can help you seek justice and compensation. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 to speak with our legal team about your case.