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Cigarette Smoke: The Ignored Pandemic

Cigarette Smoke: The Ignored Pandemic

Cigarette smoke is the biggest killer of all-time. It is an ongoing pandemic in its own right, and its death count dwarfs all modern viral pandemic deaths put together.

From 1900 to 1999, approximately 100 million people died because of cigarette smoke, and it is expected that one billion people may die from cigarette smoke-related deaths from 2000 to 2099.

Approximately 450 million adults will be killed by smoking between 2000 and 2050. About 50 percent of them will see their demise between the ages of 30 and 69.

Sadly, many innocent bystanders who do not smoke, die every year of second-hand smoke inhalation.

According to JAMA, second-hand smoke is responsible for killing about 880,000 people who do not smoke each year.

Why Is Cigarette Smoke So Dangerous?

Why Is Cigarette Smoke So Dangerous?

Studies have shown that cigarette smoke contains about 7,357 chemical compounds from many different sources.

The researchers identified which of these chemicals have a more toxic link for causing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease since cigarette smoke directly causes or contributes to early deaths, mainly through these three diseases.

Their results were as follows:

  • 1,3-butadiene was the primary and most significant chemical to cause cancer 
  • acrolein and acetaldehyde had the tremendous potential to cause respiratory problems
  • cyanide, arsenic, and cresols were the primary chemicals to cause cardiovascular problems

However, other health problems are related to cigarette smoke. They include:

  • Smoking wrinkles the skin. 
  • Cigarette smoking affects the healing process for ulcers.
  • Women who smoke are prone to experience menopause at a younger age than those who do not smoke.
  • Babies born to mothers that smoke weigh about 7 ounces less than babies whose mothers do not smoke.
  • Cigarette smoking negatively influences fetal growth and causes more miscarriages, loss of a baby before or during delivery, and newborn deaths.
  • Cigarette smoking also slows down the rate of ulcer healing.
  • Amblyopia – dimness of vision is linked to cigarette smoke. 
  • Deaths from gastric and duodenal ulcers are double in smokers than non-smokers.

Cigarette Smoke Is A Major Indoor Toxic Source Of Benzene

Cigarette smoke is a significant source of benzene emission. One cigarette can emit 430 to 590 μg (μg stands for micrograms).

Research shows that in smokers’ homes in the USA, benzene levels were 5.54–10.5 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) compared to 3.86–7.0 μg/m3 in non-smokers’ homes.

Similarly, in Italy, levels in smokers’ homes were 32.2 per square meter compared to 18.9 μg/m3 for non-smokers’ homes. Findings in Germany showed similar differences. (Source)

How Does Benzene Inhalation Affect Your Health?

Benzene is a carcinogen to humans. The WHO has made it clear, 

  • Human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia.

Indoor benzene is so dangerous that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHAhas set a limit on benzene allowed in a workplace at 1 ppm (1ppm equals 3.2 mg/m3 – source, page 1) per an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek.

Some studies show that exposure to benzene as low as 4–7 mg/m3 can adversely affect your health by attacking your chromosomes. (Source on page 63). 4–7 mg/m3 is a much lesser level than is found in smokers’ homes.

Chromosome abnormalities can cause significant health problems and disorders. (123)

Benzene is also genotoxic (can damage your genetic information), and there is no recommended safe level of exposure to it.

The Effect Of Second-Hand Smoke On Health

The Effect Of Second-Hand Smoke On Health

The dangerous effects of second-hand smoke (SHS) on health are well recognized today.

It is the number one source of toxic fume inhaled involuntarily by innocent non-smokers.

Sadly, children’s health is significantly affected when exposed to second-hand smoke. It eats up their lungs by causing recurring infections and places them at a much higher risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.

study published in 2011 stated that women and children are the ones that are exposed the most to second-hand smoke since, at that particular time, over 40% of men smoked in comparison to 12% of women.

Presently, these stats are even worse. Worldwide, 35% of men smoke compared to 6% for women.

The 2011 study also stated that SHS increased the children’s and women’s chances of dying earlier; they faced various potential diseases and reduced lung function, particularly the children.

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), 2.5 million non-smoking adults have been killed by second-hand smoke since 1964.

It is crucial to keep in mind, SHS does not discriminate; it can harm anyone. It is linked to causing the following to people that do not deserve involuntary illnesses: (456)

  • coronary heart disease 
  • cardiovascular disease
  • strokes
  • heart attacks
  • lung cancer
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 
  • wheezing, coughing, asthma, ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cancer of the larynx (voice box), nasopharynx (the part of the throat behind the nose), nasal sinuses, and breasts
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The bottom line is that second-hand smoke is a silent killer.

The Dangers Of Third-Hand Cigarette Smoke

In 2007, third-hand smoke (THS) began to be thoroughly studied. The term “third-hand smoke” became popularly recognized when it was mentioned in a 2009 article in Pediatrics

However, THS has been researched since 1953, when a scientist discovered that cigarette smoke condensates (it turns into liquid).

Years later, in a 1991 study, scientists discovered that cigarette smoke’s nicotine sticks itself to dust particles in smokers’ homes.

In 2004, a study found that even if smokers did not smoke in their homes, nicotine was still present.

In yet another study in 2008, researchers discovered nicotine residue in smokers’ cars even though they did not allow smoking in their vehicles.

Third-hand smoke is not well understood yet, but t is a significant risk for non-smokers being exposed to toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

THS introduces itself from indoor furniture, smokers’ clothing, bodies, and surfaces like walls and ceilings (Have you ever visited a heavy smoker’s home? You will see yellow nicotine residue on the walls, ceilings, and windows, etc.). If you wipe the walls, you will find a thick yellow color on the rag.

Research shows that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in cigarette smoke stick to people’s bodies and clothes. 

When these people visit other indoor places like a movie theater or a home, etc. will emit toxic chemical residue from the VOCs, exposing any other person around them or simply leaving the residue in that environment.

Also, third-hand smoke can remain in an environment for up to five years. It means anyone visiting the area will be exposed to toxic cigarette smoke chemicals even years later.

In one study, people who watched an R-rated movie were exposed to VOCs equivalent to one to ten cigarettes of second-hand smoke every hour. 

Scientists define the concept of THS chemicals with the “Four Rs“:

  • Remain
  • React 
  • Re-emit 
  • Re-suspend

These Four Rs exist long after people smoked in that environment.

Studies in the last ten years have helped scientists understand how THS is exposed and how it adversely affects people.

There is convincing evidence that “carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines” (TSNAs), chemicals formed by THS, can cause significant cellular and tissue changes in the body. TNSAs also increase the risk of cancer.

Scientists have discovered many carcinogenic chemicals in THS. Interestingly, THS appears to form new toxic chemical compounds that can affect people’s health.

Other Health Detriments Caused By Third-Hand Smoke

  • Exposure to THS increased cancer risk in mice
  • THS increases cancer risk in children
  • It causes DNA damage
  • THS increases inflammation
  • It weakens immune function

Third-hand smoke is a global problem that needs to be addressed. The world is aware that smoking and second-hand smoke can be dangerous, but not many know about third-hand smoke and the possible adverse effects on health, especially babies’ and children’s health.

Babies and children are harmed more because they breathe and touch THS toxic chemicals when they crawl on floors, sit in cars, or are held by adults that smoke.

THS can also affect people with breathing problems, pregnant women, the elderly, and pet animals.

Other reports show that THS can remain on fabric material for a year and a half after the last time someone smoked in the area. And breathing in this residue can cause numerous respiratory problems.


Cigarette smoke has sickened and killed millions of adults, children, and women worldwide. Many were victims of second and third-hand smoke.

Strangely, it is an ignored and ongoing pandemic that is estimated to kill one billion people in the 21st century. These are more deaths than all the wars, diseases, and viral pandemics that ever existed put together.

But yet, there are no lockdowns, no financial help, no social distancing, no mask-wearing, etc. The world does not seem to be paying attention to the silent and merciless killer that cigarette smoke actually is.