When you’re living in a big Indian city such as Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata, you’re vulnerable to passive smoking or secondhand smoke (SHS) from people around you. According to WHO, the tobacco epidemic is one of the greatest hazards to public health. It kills about six million people each year. Though more than five million people die as a result of direct abuse of the lethal stuff, 6,00,000 or more die each year due to continued subjection to SHS. And, that is not all. Based on the data provided by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), tobacco consumption resulted in one million fatalities and considerable health loss in India. This data don’t include health hazards resulting from SHS. Else, the figures would have been far more alarming.

What Passive Smoking Can Do to You

In the metropolitan cities, people often accompany their buddies or colleagues at work for a smoke break. Did you know that even a little exposure to passive smoking can adversely affect your health, and even prove fatal? According to Dr. Manoj Kumar, Associate Director and Head of Cardiac Cath Lab, Max Balaji Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj, non-smokers face greater risks when they are working or living with chain smokers or those who happen to visit public places frequented by other smokers.

How long you are exposed to passive smoking determines the level of damage caused by cigarette smoke to your body. According to Dr. Kumar, if you are exposed to SHS for about five minutes, adequate damage is done to your aorta, the principal artery in the human body providing oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. Again, exposure to cigarette smoke for about 20-30 minutes leads to excessive blood clotting, and finally, to atherosclerosis. This condition makes a passive smoker prone to strokes and heart attacks. If you are exposed to tobacco smoke for two hours or more, it can trigger serious ailments like heart attacks and arrhythmias in high-risk heart patients.

Though we are celebrating the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ every year, how conscious are we about the perils of passive smoking? Remember that there are no safe levels of passive smoking. Even a designated smoking zone doesn’t make one immune to SHS. The only way to stay safe from secondhand tobacco smoke is by living in a 100 percent smoke-free environment.

Delhi Unsafe Due to Passive Smoking

Experts believe that if you are living in Delhi, you’re not free from SHS as you inhale tobacco smoke all day from other chain smokers around you. According to C Arden Pope III, Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics at the Brigham Young University warned about the harmful effects of passive smoking. The continuous exposure to particulate matter (PM) 2.5 of 100-150 µg for every cubic meter is equivalent to staying in a house where 10-15 packets of cigarettes are used daily. As far as Delhi is concerned, most of the days and throughout the year, the city’s PM levels are dangerous. It’s PM 2.5 levels are more than 100 µg for every cubic meter. Though an individual normally doesn’t smoke that amount of cigarettes, it’s like inhaling tobacco smoke from 5-6 people.

Stop Smoking to Stay Healthy and Save Others

When you quit smoking, you are not only saving yourself, but also protecting others from passive smoking. After 12 hours of kicking the butt, the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood plummets to normal. Within 90 days of quitting cigarettes, your lung function and blood circulation improve to a considerable extent. After one year, the risks associated with heart ailments is reduced to half, and after a period of five years, cancer risks are lessened too.

Passive smoking is as fatal as smoking cigarettes. Raise your voice whenever you are a victim of SHS. Fight the tobacco epidemic now for a smoke-free India.