By LuAnn McLain
There has been much in the news and around our community about smoking and tobacco use this week. One reason for this is because the third Thursday of November is designated as the Great American Smoke-Out. November 18th marked the 23rd annual Smoke-Out.
Smoking can be very difficult to stop. Most folks who smoke would like to quit, wish they never started, and would probably do all they could to discourage anyone from starting.
Most smokers have been told that anyone living in their household, provided the smoker lights up inside the home, also smokes. Those who live with smokers, even though they don't smoke themselves, become involuntary smokers--a nonsmoker breathing the smoke from others.
Breathing second-hand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), makes the breather a passive smoker. According to the American Lung Association, ETS contains more than 40 substances known to cause cancer in humans or animals. Children, especially small children, and animals, have limited abilities to escape the smoke.
The risk of developing disease depends how much tobacco smoke an individual is exposed to. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3,000 nonsmokers die of lung cancer annually--as a result of breathing someone else's cigarette smoke.
Lung cancer is not the only hazard that faces involuntary smokers. Children of smokers have a greater chance of developing certain illnesses such as:
colds bronchitis and pneumonia, especially during the first two years of life chronic coughs, especially as children get older ear infections reduced lung function increasing severity of symptoms and episodes among children with asthma
As with adults, the more smoke a child (or pet) is exposed to, the more the risk is increased.
Many work places are now smoke-free. Most restaurants have smoke-free areas or are completely smoke-free. There is still progress to be made in protecting the non-smoker, however. For those who live in a home where smoking exists, choices can be limited when it comes to deciding whether to be a passive smoker or not.
Dogs with short and medium noses and dogs that tend to breathe more through the mouth are at higher risk of developing lung cancer from second-hand smoke. Dogs with longer noses were more likely to develop nasal cancer, according to research. Dogs exposed to cigarette smoke are 1.5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than are those living in smoke-free homes.
There has been limited research into the relationship between ETS and related health consequences in pets, more of it concentrating on dogs than other pets. Cats and birds are also at risk-possibly at greater risk-since they are smaller and in the case of birds, more confined.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has grouped second hand smoke (ETS) with the most toxic of cancer-causing agents. In this group of 16 pollutants, all of them must exist at levels higher than what most normally occurs in the environment to be dangerous--except ETS. Second hand smoke at typical levels (levels we are likely to encounter where smoking is allowed) have been shown to cause cancer.
Pollutants in the environment, poor nutrition, and stress affect our pets. They will develop diseases much in the same way we humans do. Because their lives are much shorter, their health problems may manifest more quickly. Size is also a factor.
Smokers who live with others who do not smoke often make the choice to smoke away from other family members, such as smoking outside. It appears that family pets will benefit from this as much, or more, as the other human inhabitants of the household.
The HELP Committee Office, at 265-6206, has information available, or call the American Cancer Society (ACS) toll free at 1-800-ACS-2345. You can log on at www.cancer.org, too.
The ACS suggests the following ways to reduce risks from smoke: If you smoke, stop. If others in your household smoke, help them to stop. Ask to be seated in the nonsmoking sections of restaurants and public transportation.
Make certain that your children's schools and their child-care situations are smoke-free.
Do the same for your pets. Help negotiate for a smoke-free work environment, and concider asking visitors not to smoke in your home.
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.