I took my first puff on a cigarette when I was ten years old. The experience was so unsettling that I never had the urge to smoke again. In fact, as a health care professional, I feel obligated to constantly warn others about the inherent dangers of smoking. And I’m not just talking about the increased risk of developing lung cancer in smokers but also the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke to those close to you.
Secondhand smoke contains the same chemicals as smoke inhaled from regular tobacco products and can cause the same tobacco-related illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer. In children, secondhand smoke has been found to result in more ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, excessive coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath, lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and even a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Like any other addiction, quitting smoking can be a challenge. Individuals who have previously quit say it is often helpful to set a quit date and to let other friends and family members in on your plan. Get rid of everything that reminds you of smoking and try to avoid these triggers. If you simply cannot quit, make sure you set up a “non-smoking zone” in your home or car to protect your loved ones—especially your children. When you go out, choose smoke free restaurants and other public places. Teach your kids about the dangers of smoking and warn them about the future health risks. In this health conscious era, everybody loses when there is smoke in the air.