The silent killer

What do you do when a person standing next to you lights a cigarette, and you are a non-smoker? You inhale the passive smoke! If you continue to stay in the same place and are of the perception that the passive smoke inhaled is not harmful, you are certainly wrong.

When a cigarette is smoked, about half of the smoke is inhaled by the smoker’s body and the other half, filled with toxins and carcinogen, remains in the atmosphere. This environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) results in what is known as passive or second-hand smoking.

Know the enemy
Although environmental tobacco smoke does not cause as many deaths as direct tobacco smoke, it is still responsible for a large number of health hazards that can lead to death. Studies show that for every eight smokers that die due to tobacco use, one non-smoker also dies.

Inhaling second-hand smoke has an immediate harmful effect on the cardiovascular system, thus increasing the risk of a heart attack. In fact, continued exposure to ETS has been shown to nearly double the chances of a heart attack. Exposure to second-hand smoke causes the hardening of arteries and leads to atherosclerosis. It also lowers the level of healthy antioxidants that enable the body to fight free radicals. Second-hand smoking reduces the level of good cholesterol and increases the level of bad cholesterol in the body.

How to avoid it
Non-smokers should take it upon themselves to ensure they breathe clean smoke- free air.

*Request friends and family who smoke to refrain from doing so in your house or car
*In case someone does smoke in your house, make sure the windows are open and there is fresh air coming in
*Politely let smokers know if you’re having problems (such as coughing or itchy eyes) because of their smoking
*Spend time in smoke-free places and avoid restaurants and bars that allow smoking.
*Support those who wish to quit the habit

Loved ones can make a big difference to a smoker’s life by supporting and enabling them to quit. Smoking is an addiction that requires determination and a consistent effort to get rid of. As a friend, spouse or well-wisher, take it upon yourself to encourage the smoker to kick the butt and embrace a healthier life.

Help him/her prepare a quit plan. This is the first step. It’s important to set a date and then try to remain smoke-free after that. From day 1 of the plan, gradually reduce smoking by reducing the number of cigarettes smoked a day till the number is zero.
Gift a smoking cessation product. In case the smoker is unable to deal with nicotine withdrawals, you can introduce him/her to nicotine replacement therapy products. These products contain clean nicotine and double a smoker’s chances of success. Usually a 12-week course of this therapy is advised to avoid a relapse. Remember to read the instructions for use to get the best results.     
Be the cheerleader. Help them to bepositive about quitting, and to get back on track. Smokers may get irritable, cranky, tired or short-tempered while their body rids itself of the harmful products in tobacco. Nicotine Replacement Therapy products will take care of most of the withdrawal symptoms. But don’t take it personally if the smoker is behaving unlike themselves.

(The author is Lead Consultant, Apollo Gleneagles Sugar & Heart Clinic)

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