Secondhand smoke kills, too

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is observing May as Lung Cancer and Tobacco Awareness Month.

Passive smoking is the involuntary inhalation of smoke from tobacco products. It occurs when tobacco smoke permeates any environment, causing its inhalation by all people within that environment.

Such smoke is called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or cancer causing, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.

While secondhand smoke may not kill as many people as smoking does, it is toxic and claims thousands of lives every year around the world. The risks associated with passive smoking are one of the main reasons for smoking bans in many workplaces and indoor public places. It is not easy to avoid secondhand smoke because about one in four people smoke.

How passive smoking affects the non-smoker

According to the American Lung Association:

? Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths each year from lung cancer in non-smokers.

? Secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

? Secondhand smoke can also irritate the lungs, leading to coughing, excessive phlegm and chest discomfort.

? Secondhand smoke has been estimated to cause 22,700 to 69,600 deaths per year from heart disease in adult non-smokers.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Neither ventilation nor filtration, even in combination, can reduce the exposure indoors to levels that are considered acceptable. Only 100 per cent smoke-free environments provide effective protection.

Action Points

? If your spouse smokes, encourage him/her to smoke outside.

? If you smoke, avoid smoking around babies or children.

? If you smoke, be thoughtful with your smoking habits when around non-smokers.

? Consider giving up smoking – the health benefits are huge for you, as well as those close to you.


The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the development of cancer through its education programs and screening initiatives as well as to providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their families with treatment related expenses. The Society also offers counselling and support to cancer patients and their families. The Society funds its programs through donations and fund-raising events. For more information on the Society call 949-7618 or email [email protected].