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Tobacco Active and Passive Smoking

7. Does passive smoking cause other health effects?

  • 7.1 Does secondhand smoke affect the heart and the respiratory system?
  • 7.2 Does secondhand smoke affect women or the unborn child?
  • 7.3 What other health effects are caused by secondhand smoke?
  • 7.4 Does secondhand smoke cause biological effects in animals?

7.1 Does secondhand smoke affect the heart and the respiratory system?

Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease, increasing the risk of acute coronary heart disease events by 25-35%. Moreover, it can cause chronic respiratory symptoms. More...

7.2 Does secondhand smoke affect women or the unborn child?

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There are few data on the effects of passive smoking on the hormonal system and on metabolism. Unlike female active smokers, female passive smokers do not weigh less than non-exposed women.

In mothers, no consistent effects of passive smoking on fertility or fecundity have been found. Similarly, there is no clear association between passive smoking and age at menopause.

Babies of mothers who smoke actively weigh about 200g less at birth than those of mothers who are non-smokers. Passive maternal smoking may also lead to a lower birth weight, but to a lesser extent. More...

7.3 What other health effects are caused by secondhand smoke?

Carcinogens present in tobacco smoke can react with proteins and DNA to form “adduct”. Such carcinogen adducts have been found on blood proteins in passive smokers, children of smoking mothers and to a lesser extent in umbilical cord blood of smoking mothers. There are no clear differences in the levels of DNA adducts in the white blood cells of passive smokers and non-exposed individuals.

The break-down products of a carcinogen specific to tobacco are found in passive smokers, supporting a link between passive smoking and cancer.

Compounds able to damage chromosomes (mutagens) are present at higher concentrations in the urine of passive smokers than in that of non-exposed individuals.

Moreover, lung tumours found in passive smokers present specific similarities with those of active smokers.

In various in vitro and in vivo laboratory experiments, the smoke to which passive smokers are exposed has been shown to damage DNA (genotoxic). More...

7.4 Does secondhand smoke cause biological effects in animals?

In test animals exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke affects various enzyme activities, leads to the formation of DNA adducts in several tissues and results in urine containing markers of exposure to tobacco smoke. Animals exposed to secondhand smoke develop inflammation in the airways and a disease of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), as observed in passively exposed humans. Exposure to sidestream smoke was also reported to lower birth weight, alter lung enzymes during development, abnormally increase the number of certain lung cells and alter the function of the lung. More...


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