Secondhand Smoke Gets In Your Lungs

Secondhand smoke in small spaces like cars and bars may restrict airways

(RxWiki News) If a whiff of cigarette smoke makes you feel ill, your instincts are right. It doesn't take much secondhand smoke to cause breathing difficulties — even if you don't notice them.

A recent study found even short exposure to secondhand smoke in small spaces can interfere with breathing.

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and was presented at a conference.

"Avoid secondhand smoke."

The study, led by Hara Stathopoulou, MD, of the Smoking and Lung Cancer Research Center at the Hellenic Cancer Society in Athens, Greece, involved conducting an experiment to see how secondhand smoke affects a person's breathing.

The researchers recruited 15 individuals who were then exposed to 20 minutes of secondhand smoke in a small room.

The small room was intended to simulate conditions where a person is in a car, bar or other small space with cigarette smoking.

The smoke they were exposed to was similar to what secondhand smoke would typically contain in these situations, with tiny particles smaller than 2.5 microns in it.

Then the researchers measured how the patients breathed with instruments designed for this purpose.

They found the individuals' physically had more difficulty breathing and their airways were more restricted while exposed to the smoke, even though the participants themselves did not notice any different or feel discomfort.

"Bars and cars are places where high concentrations of fine particles usually occur because of smoking," said Panagiotis Behrakis, MD, a co-author at the University of Athens, Greece, in a release about the study. "Nonsmokers are then forced to inhale extreme amounts of particulates directly into their lungs."

He said this study shows what a problem this can be.

"The observed short-term effects of secondhand smoke tell us even a short exposure is indeed harmful for normal airways," he said.

The study was presented October 24 at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Funding information aside from the Hellenic Cancer Society was not provided, but the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
October 24, 2012