Tobacco control and prevention efforts are usually targeted at current and potential tobacco users - but there's more to it than that. Although the health effects for smokers are a deadly reality, we also know that the smoke from cigarettes affects everybody around it.
For college students, the campus environment can be really dangerous since there are many locations where they can be exposed to secondhand smoke - places like residence halls, student housing, outside of building entrances and in bars and buildings where smoking is permitted. So what's the big deal about being exposed?
- Even 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure daily can cause heart damage similar to that of a habitual smoker.
- People who are exposed to daily secondhand smoke have a 30% higher death and disease rate than that of non-smokers.
- Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in this country, behind smoking and alcohol/drug abuse.
- It is estimated that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 50,000 coronary heart disease deaths every year.
- Secondhand smoke is also associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and unhealthy (lower birth weight) infants. Smoking by mothers is linked to a higher risk of their babies developing asthma in childhood.
- Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems than children from non-smoking families.
To learn more about the hazards of secondhand smoke, take a look at the Surgeon General’s 2006 report.
What’s In It?
How much do you know about secondhand smoke? Do you know that it is smoke that comes from burning cigarettes as well as that exhaled from smokers? Do you know what's in it? Take the "2nd Hand Exam" and see how much you really know.
Now that you know that secondhand smoke is harmful, what can you do to help fight the problem and protect yourself?
- If you smoke, stop.
- Do not allow people to smoke in you room, where you live or in your car.
- Look for smoke-free bars/clubs. Make sure the owners and/or managers know that being in a smoke-free environment is a big reason you go there. Thank them for it.
- Ask that clean air policies such as no smoking in public areas, where you work and within 25 feet of each building entrance are enforced.
- Work with administration or student government on creating clean air policies on your campus.
- Let your legislators know where you stand on nonsmokers' rights issues, and that you will support their efforts to pass laws designed to protect the nonsmoker. Don't know who they are? Click here to find out.