Our colleague smokes at the workplace and we end up taking in a lot of that smoke. Won’t this passive smoking pose serious health risks to us in the long run?
Smoking carries health hazards not only for the smoker but also people around him, who are exposed to the cigarette smoke. A non smoker is exposed to cigarette smoke in two ways. Firstly, it is by inhaling the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Secondly, it is by the smoke coming out from the burning end of cigarette. The smoke coming out from the burning end of cigarette is more toxic than the one inhaled by the smoker. It is said to become more toxic when it comes out in atmosphere,(stale versus fresh smoke). A passive smoker is exposed to about 4000 chemicals present in the smoke out of which 69 are known to have carcinogens (cancer producing substances). A passive smoker has 25-30% increased risk of developing lung cancer than those who are not exposed. He has higher risk of developing respiratory illness like pneumonia, chronic lung disease. Children as well as adults, who are exposed to cigarette smoke have higher chances of developing asthma and chronic bronchitis. There is documented greater prevalence of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and strokes in passive smokers. In case of pregnant women, exposure to cigarette smoke can cause abortions, preterm babies and babies born with congenital abnormalities.
It is advisable that your colleague is explained all these hazards of passive smoking. If not for sake of his co-workers, then at least for sake of his family members, he should try to avoid smoking. If he finds it difficult to give up, he can try to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked. He should be gently counseled to move to an outdoor space to smoke so that others are not exposed to the smoke. If he really wants to quit, his family or friends can take him to professional centers, where he can receive counseling and medicines which shall help him to quit smoking. In no way, should one be judgmental about this person, as such attitude may make him stubborn.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital