Smoking: Effects on Others & the Environment

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  • 0:01 Trash, Smog, and Smoke
  • 0:30 Secondhand Smoke
  • 2:32 The Consequences of ETS
  • 5:04 The Environment
  • 6:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will hopefully dispel some myths surrounding secondhand smoke and how it affects people who do not smoke. You'll even learn about the fact that there are two different kinds of secondhand smoke.

Trash, Smog, and Smoke

Most people wouldn't want another person's toxic and stinky trash put on their property or worse, shoved in their face. It's disgusting!

Correspondingly, few of us would want to live in a smoggy city or next to a chemical plant. It's just unhealthy.

But if you stand next to a smoker or live with one, then you are subjecting yourself to not only a big stink but to dangerous chemicals that can result in your death, as you'll soon learn. In some ways, it's far worse to smoke near a person than to dump your trash on their front lawn.

Secondhand Smoke

That's because environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as secondhand smoke is a carcinogen that enters the air from the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, and exhalation of smoke by smokers. I know you know what it is. It's the white stuff people blow out of their nostrils or mouth. ETS is just the technical term for it, that's all.

As a side note here, a carcinogen is a cancer-causing substance. Just because you aren't actually using the cigarette yourself doesn't mean you're safe. If you're standing close enough, you're inhaling basically the same smoke your lung cancer-seeking friend is. And if you're not, then the carcinogenic particles of smoke still go into the air around you and are inhaled by other living things on this planet.

I also want to put to bed a common myth straight away. There is no such thing as a safe level of secondhand smoke. Any amount of it is harmful to your health. And that's not just coming from me but from the top doctor of the U.S., the U.S. Surgeon General.

In fact, secondhand smoke is so dangerous that it is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome. Meaning, little babies, less than one years of age, can die if someone around them smokes. Literally millions of people have died as a direct consequence of inhaling this secondhand smoke.

But you know what's even worse? The smoke that comes off the burning end of the cigarette is sometimes far worse than the smoke inhaled through the filter. Since the smoke at the burning end hasn't passed through the filter, it has significantly higher levels of dangerous chemicals and poisons within it. Meaning, some of the secondhand smoke is actually worse for you!

This smoke, the smoke that comes off of the burning end of a pipe, cigarette, or cigar, is known as sidestream smoke. The other type of secondhand smoke, the smoke exhaled by a smoker, is known as mainstream smoke.

The Consequences of ETS

Any of this secondhand smoke has dire consequences, as I've already mentioned. Thousands of people die from lung disease, and tens of thousands of people die from heart disease every single year due to secondhand smoke. What I want to reiterate and make clear is that these deaths occur in people who do not actually smoke themselves - they are only exposed to the secondhand smoke of others. In a way, you can almost say that smokers are killing innocent bystanders.

But I can already see it in your head. If not yours, then another person following along here. 'It's ok, so long as I'm not around secondhand smoke for too long'. Not really, my friends. If you go to someone's house where everyone is smoking, say for a poker game, then be aware of something for me. After only 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke, a healthy non-smoking person's coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood and oxygen, become as dysfunctional as that of a smoker's. Over time, this dysfunction may become permanent and lead to the most common cause of death in smokers, heart disease.

To help remember their important name, think about the fact that the smoker's death has to be certified by a 'coroner' due to 'coron'-ary artery disease.

Smoking mothers should also beware, because smoking during pregnancy damages a baby's body and doubles the chances of a miscarriage. Furthermore, breast milk passes along toxic chemicals to the baby if the mother smokes. That's, of course, on top of the damage caused by inhaling the smoke lingering in the air, which in children worsens or causes the development of things such as asthma, ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia, to name just a few.

Oh, by the way, just because a person smokes outdoors or can't see the smoke, that doesn't mean a baby or any other person isn't being poisoned by the habit.

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