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Passive Smoking, Massive Problem: The first-hand problem of secondhand smoke

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

A lot is spoken, written, and discussed in the context of active smokers. While they do form the majority of the smoking-affected population, one lesser discussed dilemma is one of the passive smokers. Passive smoking refers to the act of inhaling someone else’s tobacco smoke, as a result of being in their immediate surroundings.

Passive smoking is usually accidental, or a result of being in a particular setting. At larger gatherings such as parties, many non-smokers become passive smokers due to the smoking activity of others around them. While these may be easily avoidable one-off or occasional cases, the issues arising from passive smoking are much higher when one lives with or interacts daily with an active smoker. This is usually the case with those who are family members, friends, colleagues, or partners of people who smoke regularly.

To discourage smoking, and to protect passive smokers from over-exposure, many countries (including India) have imposed certain restrictions on smoking in public. Some countries like Norway, New Zealand, Uruguay, Malta, Italy, Sweden, Scotland, Bhutan, Lithuania, and the British Virgin Islands imposed a strict ban on public smoking in 2004, and are now 100% smoke-free.

When it comes to a more personal setting such as the home, cars or private gatherings, passive smokers are usually left with only two choices- To ignore & tolerate the habit or simply avoid being around when someone is smoking. In a more immediate sense, these may be valid options, but they are not the only ones.

Before we get into the solutions for passive smokers, let’s take an in-depth look at the associated risks that passive smokers face:

  • Even though one may not be a direct smoker, passive smoking can be as (if not more) harmful than active smoking. Passive smokers stand at a risk of suffering from breathing ailments such as asthma & bronchitis. They also stand susceptible to other chronic ailments similar to that of an active smoker.

  • Tobacco smoke contains roughly 7,000 chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer. Passive smoke has also been recognized as a cause of lung cancer by various health studies and authorities.

  • Pregnant women exposed to regular passive smoke can suffer from complications during childbirth. Passive smoking can also harm the development and growth of the baby during the pregnancy phase.

  • Exposing small children to secondhand smoke can cause respiratory issues and lung infections. Wheezing, ear infections, breathlessness, asthma, and other chronic ailments can also be a concern for your child’s health. For newborns and infants, this can also be fatal.

  • For non-smoking adults, being exposed to secondhand smoke regularly increases the chances of stroke, heart ailments, and even cancer. According to claims, passive smokers have a 20-30% increased chance of developing lung cancer.

  • Similarly, pets are also at high risk for similar ailments as other passive smoking adults. The tobacco in cigarette smoke can damage their cells and lead to throat, nose & lung cancer in animals.

  • If you are an active smoker whose habit is leaving loved ones vulnerable to risk, this may be your wake-up call to make a change. Love is a great motivator and we’re sure you agree, that nothing precedes the life of those you care for. We do realize that quitting cannot be an overnight process, especially for chain smokers. Quitting any long-time addiction takes systematic effort.

While the attempt must be made, here are some solutions that one can be implemented to protect their loved ones (and themselves) from exposure:

Solutions for Active Smokers:

  • Resist the urge to light up when you’re in the company of your non-smoking friends and family members.

  • At clubs, parties or restaurants, use designated smoking rooms only. Avoid the act of lighting a cigarette in public places or when surrounded by a group of people that may get exposed to your secondhand smoke.

  • Set boundaries. Keep your home and car a strictly smoke-free zone. This is a crucial step, as cigarette smoke tends to stay suspended in the air for a longer time. In constricted spaces like closed rooms and cars, the smoke sticks to surfaces long after you’ve extinguished your cigarette. Simply being considerate and mindful of restricting where you smoke can go a long way in protecting your loved ones. There is a bonus to this too- You will automatically cut down your intake, by restricting yourself from smoking in certain places.

  • It is crucial to try and keep your entire home smoke-free. This is because cigarette smoke travels swiftly, so even if you restrict yourself to smoking in one room, the toxic fumes can still seep through to other rooms.

  • If you receive guests who are active smokers, ensure that they either smoke in outdoor spaces only (like the balcony or home terrace) or inform them in advance of your home’s strict smoke-free policy.

  • At work, use your office’s smoke room when you get the urge or step outdoors when you need to smoke. Be mindful of not lighting up when taking a break with non-smoking co-workers, as your habit may be a point of discomfort for them.

  • Be careful not to expose your children to environments where active smokers may be present.

Solutions for Passive Smokers:

  • If you are a passive smoker, you needn’t feel helpless or dependent on active smokers for solutions. To begin with, you can take the first step of setting down strict rules that protect your boundaries.

  • Silence is often misinterpreted as compliance. Rather than wishing the problem away, communicate your apprehensions with your active smoking companions so they can realize the extent of your discomfort and take the necessary steps for your safety and wellbeing.

  • Be vocal about creating awareness. If you are deeply affected by the addiction of a loved one, you can play an active role in influencing a change of habit. Start by educating yourself and them about the many health and environmental risks of smoking.

  • Caring for the environment is no longer only for activists. As conscious citizens, we owe it to our planet’s future to keep our surroundings clean. You can participate in cigarette waste clean-up drives. For those living closely with active smokers, dealing with cigarette waste can also be a concern. You can turn this dilemma into a productive solution by becoming a waste warrior. Start small by collecting cigarette waste within your homes and peer groups. You can also send them to us for recycling and become a volunteer with Code Effort.

When it comes to the cigarette pollution crisis, the responsibility does not lie solely in the hands of active smokers and regulating authorities. As friends, family, or concerned citizens you too can play a significant role in establishing grounds for a large-scale change. A simple shift from a problem to a solution-based approach can turn passive smokers from helpless bystanders to change-makers.

To know more about how you can become a waste warrior with Code Effort or to participate in our awareness creation efforts, contact us through our official social media pages or write to us at

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