Second hand smoke

Second hand smoke and the law

From October 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in a car with a child who is under 18 years old.

What is second hand or passive smoking?

This is when someone breathes in smoke from other people’s cigarettes. 

What if I smoke while the door or window is open?

More than 80% of second hand smoke is invisible so you can’t see where it goes, making it impossible to control, even with windows and doors open. Tobacco smoke can linger up to two and half hours.

How does second hand smoke affect someone’s health?

People who breathe in second-hand smoke are at risk of many of the same diseases as smokers including lung cancer and heart disease. Breathing in second hand smoke can increase the risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%.

Why are children more vulnerable to the dangers of second hand smoke?

Children are at more risk of second second-hand smoke because they have a higher breathing rate and less-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Children breathing in second-hand smoke resulted in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions in the UK last year.

Children exposed to second hand smoke are more at risk of:

  • cot death
  • impaired lung function 
  • respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia
  • middle ear disease 
  • asthma/wheeze symptoms.

People with COPD and second hand smoke

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for respiratory illnesses. People with COPD have obstructed airways which makes it difficult for them to breathe. You can help prevent their condition from getting worse by smoking outside of the home.

Second-hand smoke and pets

Second-hand smoke affects your pets. Dogs who live with a smoker are 60% more likely to develop lung cancer and cats living with a smoker are more than twice as likely to develop lymphoma (a type of cancer).

Making your home smoke free

The best thing you can do for your health is to give up smoking yourself. But if you can’t stop you should protect children, pets and other adults from tobacco smoke. You can also ask your family and friends not to smoke in your home or to do so in a different room.

Smoking outside your home will also lower the chance of you having a fire in your home, keep your home and clothes smelling fresh, help you to cut down/quit your smoking and will help someone else who is trying to quit. 

After stopping smoking:

Your health will begin to improve after just 20 minutes and you will soon start to notice the benefits of quitting.

  • After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate will be back to the normal rate of a non-smoker.
  • After 24 hours, carbon monoxide will be gone from your body. Your lungs will start to clear out unwanted mucus and smoking debris.
  • After 48 hours, food will start to taste better and your sense of smell will improve too.
  • After 72 hours, your breathing will become easier and your energy levels will increase.
  • After 2-12 weeks, your circulation will improve, making your skin look better.
  • After 3-9 months, smoker’s coughs and breathing problems should improve as your lung function increases by up to 10%.
  • After 5 years, your risk of a heart attack will fall to about half that of a smoker.
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer will fall to half that of a smoker… and your risk of a heart attack should be the same as someone who has never smoked.

Stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. You are four times more likely to stop with an NHS service (using stop smoking medication and support).

To be referred to your local service or to speak to a specialist advisor please contact the stop smoking service:

Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital: 020 8216 4175 or RF-TR.bcf-smokefree@nhs.net
Royal Free Hospital: 020 7472 6393 or rf.stopsmoking@nhs.net

Alternatively you can call the national stop smoking service on 030 0123 1044.

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