By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Cigarette smoke has more adverse effects on non-smokers than it was previously thought, recent studies have found. Second Hand Smoke (SHS), commonly known as passive smoking, has adverse effects that are just as detrimental as active smoking. A study published in Circulation and quoted by a Rhino Park pharmacy newsletter, Health News of February and March notes that second hand smoke increases chances of heart disease by 30 percent. “A burning cigarette, cigar or pipe is a health risk to everyone in the same room,” says the newsletter. The smoke contributes to a number of health conditions that range from ear infections to cancer. SHS is a mixture of two types of smoke, namely side stream smoke and mainstream smoke. At least 60 of the chemicals in a puff of smoke are carcinogenic, meaning they may cause cancer. The newsletter added that although scientific evidence of tobacco hazards is strongest for smokers, regular exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke threatens the health of non-smokers. In Namibia, the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) recently sounded a warning against cigarette smoking in the country. CAN Director, Kurt Johanneson said there was a need for legislation against smoking in public places. He said the association would work with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to push for legislation that bans public smoking. The National Assembly recently ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on tobacco control, which set in motion the process of formulating Namibia’s own legislation to prohibit certain tobacco related practices. Statistics compiled in 2000 in Namibia indicate a smoking prevalence of 65 percent among males compared to 35 percent females in 1994. The statistics indicate that in 2000, 30 males per 100 000 died of trachea, lung and bronchitis cancer, representing a mortality rate of 25.5 percent. The same year 2000 saw 96 males per 100 000 die of lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancer. In females however, fewer deaths were reported from the two categories as seven died from trachea, lung and bronchus cancer at a rate of 4.7 percent, while those who died from lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancer were 37 at a mortality rate of 27 per 100 000. Part of the advice Health News has given out to help minimise the effects of second hand smoke include equipping homes or individual rooms with high efficiency extractors or air filters, breathing exercises in a smoke free area, taking saunas and steam baths to help rid the body of toxins, as well as increasing the intake of fibre-rich fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Health News also recommends the intake of supplements such as tea, ginger and turmeric that help the body protect itself from common toxins. The herbal compounds can be highly effective in inhibiting the activation of carcinogens in cigarettes and environmental smoke. The Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) wrote in October 2005 that effects of brief exposure to second hand smoke are often as great as chronic smoking. Three cigarettes smouldering in a room, says the ANR emit up to 10-fold more particle matter (PM) than an ecodiesel engine. In pregnant women, it damages the foetus if a mother inhales the smoke directly from a cigarette and results in low birth weight, which contributes to infant mortality and health complications into adulthood. It can also result in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as infants who die from this syndrome tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs. Other equally serious effects of SHS on children include impairment to a child’s ability to learn, which results in reading deficits. “Maternal prenatal smoking contributes to the development of anti social behaviour and attention deficit hyperactive disorder symptoms in the mother’s offspring,” says the ANR. ‘The level of second hand smoke a child is exposed to is directly proportional to the likelihood of the child becoming a smoker as an adult,” adds the Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights. In adult health, it causes poor lung function and respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes type 11 and also increases the risk of developing breast cancer in younger primarily pre-menopausal women. Being a major source of PM, SHS is a risk factor for pulmonary disease, asthma, and lung cancer. “Even a half an hour of second hand smoke exposure causes heart damage similar to that of habitual smokers,” said ANR.
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