Almost everyone is forced to inhale fumes containing toxins such as formaldehyde, acetone, arsenic, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and nicotine at some time. You have no choice in the matter and have to suffer the consequences, because these chemicals are just a few of the scores of irritants found in cigarette smoke. Fortunately for most of us, the result of passive involuntary smoking is only a minor itch of the nose, a cough or a sneeze, but some people can develop life-threatening asthma attacks or have their heart condition aggravated by inhaling tobacco smoke. Being trapped in a vehicle or other enclosed space with a smoker can be a nightmare experience for such people. In some situations the non-smoker may be more affected than the smoker, because the smoke coming directly from a cigarette contains more toxins, nicotine and carbon monoxide than that inhaled by the smoker, which has been more completely burnt and passed through a filter.
The most unfortunate victims of passive smoking are the children of smokers. The incidence of pneumonia and bronchitis and the severity of asthma in children whose parents smoke are far higher than in the children of non-smokers. In babies of women who smoke, health problems caused by passive smoking begin before birth (see above).
In the workplace, more and more offices are becoming smoke-free zones. Unfortunately some people still smoke at work, and if their subordinates have adverse reactions to passive smoking, they may have to put up with it or change jobs. This situation may change in the future, as more and more workers are successfully claiming workers compensation payments for complications of passive smoking at work.
The non-smoking spouse or partner of a smoker is also at great risk. They have a significantly increased risk of lung cancer, reduced lung capacity, a higher incidence of asthma, and more respiratory infections than those whose spouses or partners do not smoke.
Smokers should now be aware of the health risks that they are taking every day, and they can no longer claim personal freedom to smoke where and when they like, as their habit is adversely affecting the health of those around them. All smokers should have the courtesy to only light up when there is no possibility of others inhaling the resultant toxic fumes. Legal suits by passive smokers against smokers for causing bodily harm have been successful in the United States.
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