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Feature: The dangers of "secondhand smoke" according to DOH

by Mimi Bern-Edaga

Zamboanga City (June 15) -- Parents, usually mothers, admonish teenagers not to smoke because government warns it is dangerous to health.

Health conscious people do not smoke because they understand the dangers except for the dangers of the smoke breathe inside restaurants and pubs, more so the smoke in cigarettes left burning by daddy's cigarette in ashtray, called secondhand smoke.

What is secondhand smoke? Environmental tobacco smoke, passive smoking, involuntary smoking and a newer, more descriptive term, tobacco smoke pollution mean all the same.

Secondhand smoke comes in two different forms, the sidestream smoke and the mainstream smoke. The first is the smoke that wafts from the burning tobacco product and the second is the smoke that the smoker exhales. Both types of secondhand smoke contain harmful chemicals.

Specifically which chemicals are present depend on the type of tobacco product, how it is smoked and the paper in which the tobacco is wrapped. More than 4,000 chemicals make up the haze of secondhand smoke. In addition, more than 60 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are known to be cancerous, health authorities disclosed.

Some of the substances found in secondhand smoke that are known or suspected to cause cancer include formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium, benzene and ethylene oxide.

Few other chemicals in secondhand smoke that might sound familiar, along with their effects on health are: ammonia - irritates lungs, carbon monoxide -hampers breathing by reducing oxygen in the blood, methanol - toxic when inhaled or swallowed and hydrogen cyanide - interferes with proper respiratory function.

The dangerous particles given off in secondhand smoke can linger in the air for hours. Even breathing those in for a short time - as little as 20 or 30 minutes - can harm your health in a variety ways. And breathing in secondhand smoke over years can be even more dangerous, reports from Mayo Clinic revealed.

With the above-mentioned dangers, the Department of Health-IX is posed to conduct an orientation with hotel owners and operators in keeping with this month's health significance as "No Smoking Month."

Dr. Agnes Mabolo of DOH-IX said the orientation aims at "dismantling the myths of secondhand smoke," also the No Smoking Month theme. Coming up with smoke-free environment hotels is a health rewarding endeavor and I hope many hotel owners and operators would decide to provide such atmosphere to the public, Mabolo added. (PIA-ZC) [top]

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