Reading news articles from the U.S. and around the world about the need to protect children from secondhand smoke gives you the understanding about the importance of this issue. Whether it is called secondhand smoke (SHS) or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), the involuntary or passive inhalation of this smoke released by burning tobacco products is dangerous to the health of children, as well as adults. This smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer. While many governments are working to control the amount of secondhand smoke in enclosed spaces, it is difficult for them to extend the bans to outside areas. Many in the public, as well as government, still don’t understand how dangerous this smoke can be.
Calgary, Canada, for instance, is a community that is attempting to place smoking bans to “select outdoor areas in which children and youth congregate.” Sounds easy enough. People understand smoking is unhealthy, and that breathing smoke in enclosed places is dangerous to your health. Since people can see the smoke indoors, they can see the danger. Once outside the smoke is not as easily seen but is still there. Public opinion thinks it is ridiculous to place smoking bans outdoors as viewed by the comments.
One comment stated banning smoking “is crossing the rights of others,” and compared it to chewing gum. While both cigarettes and gum end up as litter and are non-biodegradable, cigarettes are the number one most littered item in the world, and leak toxic chemicals from the filters into water ecosystems.
The other comment that was most interesting was from a non-smoking reader who stated “the health risks attributed to secondhand smoke are greatly exaggerated…it’s not plutonium.” Actually, it is! Plutonium, associated with nuclear weapons, and polonium-210 are two highly radioactive elements and both are found in cigarette smoke. Other toxic components of cigarette smoke include cadmium (a toxic metal), uranium, lead, “carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde, ammonia and pyridine” along with many others not listed. In fact the 599 ingredients in cigarettes produce over4,000 chemical compounds, many of which are cancer-causing.
When you smoke outside these chemicals are diluted by the atmosphere, and therefore considered less dangerous. However, if you can still smell the cigarette smoke, you are breathing in toxic chemicals. In this day and age, with what we know about cigarette smoke, it is reprehensible for any government to continue to allow their citizens, young or old, to be exposed to these toxic chemicals.
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