Passive smoking can impair breathing

Passive smoking can impair breathing

Heavy concentrations of secondhand smoke, such as those found in smoke-filled bars and cars, can lead to breathing impairment within minutes of exposure, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from the University of Athens, the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that after 20 minutes of exposure to highly concentrated secondhand smoke, participants experienced near immediate physiologic changes, including airway resistance and impedance.

“Bars and cars are places where high concentrations of fine particles usually occur because of smoking. Nonsmokers are then forced to inhale extreme amounts of particulates directly into their lungs,” said Panagiotis Behrakis from the University of Athens, Greece.

“The observed short-term effects of secondhand smoke tell us that even a short exposure is indeed harmful for normal airways,” Behrakis said in a statement. The study exposed 15 healthy participants to air heavily concentrated with smoke particulates within an exposure chamber—simulating a bar or moving car—for 20 minutes. During this time, researchers measured participants’ total respiratory impedance, resistance, and reactance with the use of an impulse oscillometry, a noninvasive way of measuring the physical properties of respiratory movement during quiet breathing.

Results showed that short-term exposure to concentrated secondhand smoke significantly and immediately impacted participants’ airways, invoking such physiologic changes as increased airway impedance and resistance. Participants showed no clinical signs or feelings of discomfort during the test. Although exposure to secondhand smoke appears to be slightly less harmful than direct smoking, Behrakis believes secondhand smoking should be recognised as a global health issue.

“Secondhand smoking is the most widespread form of violence exerted on children and workers on a global level. The whole issue of secondhand smoke needs to be recognised as a global problem of human rights violation,” Behrakis said.