Every person should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air.

While the drive is to encourage and help smokers to quit, it is worth understanding the impact of second-hand or environmental tobacco smoke.

According to WHO (World Health Organisation), there are more than 4 000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

They go on to say that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

  • In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it can cause sudden death. In pregnant women, it can cause low birth weight.
  • Almost 50% of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco in public places.
  • Second-hand smoke causes more than 890 000 premature deaths per year.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) says that a non-smoker sitting in a room filled with smoke for 8 hours can breathe as many cancer-causing chemicals as if he or she had smoked 36 cigarettes!

CANSA offers some guidelines to avoid second-hand smoke:

  • Make your home, workplace and community smoke-free.
  • Ask smokers to refrain from smoking around you.
  • Don’t allow smokers to smoke around your children.

– Ask visitors not to smoke in your home.
– If you live with smokers, agree a place outside where they can smoke or help them to quit.

To help family or friends to quit smoking, encourage them to visit their GP or pharmacy for assistance if they are struggling to quit on their own.