Most people know that smoking is bad for your health thanks to extensive anti-smoking campaigns. While the number of smokers has gone down, current smokers are still causing harm. Electronic cigarettes have become an established industry and while marketed as safer than regular cigarettes, recent developments show the harm “e-cigarettes” have caused.
Below is information on how smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes impacts your health and the health of others around you:
Electronic cigarettes deliver a mix of toxic chemicals including carcinogens into the lungs. Engineers developed e-cigarettes to offer tobacco users a smoke-free source of nicotine. The devices heat up a liquid that a user inhales, but there is no smoke to release because nothing is burning.
Researchers have yet to conclusively agree on the dangers found in smoking e-cigarettes, but the vapor being inhaled holds greater risk than scientists had thought. Studies have shown that the e-cigarettes’ vapors contain at least traces of the solvents of nicotine and flavorings, alsoknown as lung irritants.
These solvents can transform into carbonyls. Carbonyls include known cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and suspected carcinogens, such as acetaldehyde.
E-cigarette vapors also make dangerous germs harder to kill. In a test, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause pneumonia, was difficult to kill with a natural antibiotic found in our bodies. The germs exposed to nicotine heavy vapors developed a protective coating. Over time this allows bacteria to grow in the lungs, proven harder to kill by our natural antibodies.
There is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less toxic than a puff on a regular cigarette, but we cannot ignore the growing evidence against the perceived harmlessness of electronic cigarettes.
Smoking is the number 1 cause of preventable deaths in the United States. About half of the people who smoke will eventually die as a direct result of smoking. Even smoking just a few cigarettes a day can damage a person’s body.
How does smoking cigarettes damage your body?
- It weakens the immune system, and smokers tend to miss more days of work when they get sick from colds and flu.
- Smokers don’t heal as well as nonsmokers when recovering from injuries or surgery.
- It damages the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- It causes cancer of the lung, as well as cancer in other organs.
- It can cause diabetes.
From the 2010 Surgeon General’s Report, “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease….what it means to you.” and from the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking:
50 Years of Progress”.
Secondhand smoke is dangerous, too
Did you know that smoking is not just bad for the smoker? Other people inhale the fumes that come off of a lit cigarette and the smoke that the smoker exhales into the air. This is referred to as secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke is not a small problem. In 2006, the U. S. Surgeon General’s report stated: “There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous.” The list of health issues caused by secondhand smoke is long:
- Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to give birth to babies with lower birth weights.
- Breathing secondhand smoke can cause babies to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke miss more days of school due to illness.
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for asthma and for acute respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
- A child with asthma who is exposed to secondhand smoke will have worse asthma attacks and will have attacks more often.
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke suffer more ear infections.
- Adults who breathe secondhand smoke miss more days of work due to illness.
- Breathing secondhand smoke causes heart disease and can lead to heart attack.
- Breathing secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
- Breathing secondhand smoke may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
It is proven that smoking is dangerous not only for smokers but also for everyone who is around
them. This is why smoking is prohibited in many public places. No one is allowed to smoke at the mall, at the doctor’s office, or at schools. Yet California children are still exposed to secondhand smoke in the place they spend the majority of their time, their home. One third of Californians live in multi-unit housing, such as apartments or condominiums, where units share walls, floors or ceilings. In multi-unit housing secondhand smoke can easily drift from one unit to another. That means millions of people may be exposed to secondhand smoke even if they do not allow smoking in their unit. Low-income children are particularly at risk.
From the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.” and from the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress”.
What can you do to protect your family from secondhand smoke?
1 First, don’t smoke. If you do smoke, ALWAYS smoke outside, away from doors and windows, and make a plan to quit. Anyone in California can get professional counseling to help them quit smoking FOR FREE over the phone at 1-800-662-8887 (English) or 1 800-456-6386 (Spanish). You can also call your local Health Department to ask if there are any smoking cessation classes being held in your area.
2 Second, don’t allow anyone to smoke inside your home. Explain to family members and guests that not smoking inside helps to protect everyone’s health. Also, offer smokers you care about the quit line number.
3 Third, if you live in an apartment building, ask the manager about the smoking policy. Find out if there is a rule about where people can smoke and if they would consider changing the rules to completely prohibit smoking.
In 2009, the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development sent out a notice that strongly encouraged Public Housing Authorities to implement non-smoking policies. You may ask your landlord to check with the property owner or your local housing authority about changing your complex’s smoking rules. You may also reach out to your local city or county representatives and find out if they would consider passing a law that prohibits smoking in multi-unit housing.
We all have the right to breathe clean air. Secondhand smoke is full of toxins that can make you and your family sick. To find out more information on how you can prohibit smoking where you live, contact your local Health Department or Housing Authority.
Adapted from Sutter County Tobacco Control
CORRECTION: The June 2015 issue of the Voice of the Fields listed an incorrect phone number for the Yuba City Migrant Center. The correct phone number is (530) 671-0220.