Before reading any further, look at your watch or the time display on your smartphone. Mark the time. Start counting 24 hours from now. Are you having breakfast at the moment? Or on your way to the office? Are you smoking a cigarette?

Chances are, by the time you have breakfast, or go to the office, or smoke your cigarette at this time tomorrow: 240 people would be dead. According to a report published in the Philippine Health Center for Research and Development, around 10 Filipinos die of smoking-related diseases every hour.

The Department of Health (DOH) has more warnings. Quoting figures from the WHO Global Adult Tobacco Survey, health officials reported that lung cancer is the number one killer of Filipino men among all types of cancers.

But even if you are not a smoker, it doesn’t mean you are out of danger. The DOH also reported that 3,000 Filipinos die every year from lung cancer–even though they do not smoke tobacco or cigarettes. The reason? They are inhaling what’s called “secondhand” smoke.

When a person smokes tobacco, he or she blows the smoke into the air. This releases toxic chemicals like tar, nicotine, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, etc., into the environment. These toxins are inhaled by nonsmokers: they could include you, your spouse, or your children.

Remember that joke about the man who smoked for 30 years in bed but never got sick? It turned out that his non-smoking wife got lung cancer and died. Not really funny if it happens in real life.

Dr. Lai Lee Lam, a pulmonologist at ManilaMed, explained that because of secondhand smoke, nonsmokers are in the same, if not, greater danger as smokers.

“These are the patients that are not actively smoking but they are exposed to people who smoke. They share the air of the smokers, and whatever the consequences on the bad effects of smoking, they can also have it in their bodies,” said Dr. Lee Lam.  She mentioned several reasons why so-called “secondhand smokers” are in danger.

Because of longer exposure to smoke

Second hand smokers may be exposed to more smoke than the actual smokers.  Smokers inhale tobacco toxins only for a moment. However, second hand smokers inhale all the toxins scattered in the air by many first-hand smokers. These toxins linger and continue to contaminate the air that we all inhale.

Dr. Lee Lam gave a hypothetical example:

“Mr. A is an active smoker. He goes to the office and smokes for an hour and then leaves the office. Ms. B, the secretary, on the other hand, does not smoke but stays eight hours in the office with all of her bosses smoking starting from Mr. A-Z.

“Ms. B stays at the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (so she was exposed to the smoke for a longer time). So, the effect might be more dreaded on the secretary, who is a passive smoker, because it would depend on the quantitative exposure and patient’s component.”

Nonsmokers can contract more severe diseases than actual smokers

Passive smokers tend to contract more health infections than the actual smokers. Again, this is due to longer periods of exposure. Here are the diseases and deficiencies that a secondhand smoker might get:

  • Cataracts
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Lower Respiratory Illness
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Miscarriage
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • May build child’s ear infections
  • ADHD

If you’re a passive smoker and experience one or more of these health issues, see your doctor immediately for a check-up.

Limited smoke-free spaces

A study shows that there are 17.3 million Filipino smokers who consume up to 7 cigarettes per day. That’s one contributing factor why passive smokers can’t avoid contaminated air. Once an actual smoker exhales, the smoke remains inside the room, office, and air more than a month.

To avoid these health risks, the government has declared the implementation of designated areas for actual smokers, and there is talk of permanently banning smoking to make the Philippines a smoke-free country.

Protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke by keeping away from designated smoking areas. If you find someone smoking indoors, call his or her attention and exercise your right to preserve your health.

For more health guidance and check-ups, visit any pulmonologist of ManilaMed and call ManilaMed’s Respiratory Therapy Department at 523-8131 loc. 2202 for more details. Do check out www.manilamed.com.ph. Stay healthy!