In Germany about 28% of the adult population smoke (at the age of 15 years), that is the equivalent of about 20 million people. That's about a quarter of the population. The vast majority does not smoke. Yet many, often involuntarily, are exposed to the smoke of others; because they smoke passively. Burning a cigarette produces about 2 liters of smoke that the smokers themselves least of all breathe. This smoke is not dangerous.
The composition of cigarette smoke
Cigarette smoke is a chemical cocktail of about 4, 000 different substances, of which more than 40 have a carcinogenic or toxic effect. Cigarette smoke contains, in addition to tar:
- the poison arsenic
- the heavy metal lead
- the exhaust gas carbon monoxide
- the formaldehyde also used in the furniture industry
These substances are not only absorbed by smokers. Due to the low combustion temperatures at the edge of a smoldering cigarette - the so-called sidestream smoke - harmful substances are formed in the ambient air to a far greater extent than in the smoke that is inhaled directly through the cigarette - the mainstream smoke.
In passive smoking, for example, inhaled by the classified as toxic nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde as much as by the smoker itself. The concentration of carcinogenic substances benzene and nickel in the sidestream smoke even up to 10 or 30 times higher than in the mainstream smoke.
Immediate consequences of the smoke
The immediate consequences of cigarette smoke are common:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- a headache
In addition, passive smoking can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection. In the long term, the development of heart disease (coronary heart disease) and lung cancer is not excluded. It is estimated that at least 400 people die of lung cancer in Germany every year due to passive smoking. Since 1998, therefore, tobacco smoke in indoor air has been classified as carcinogenic.
Passive smoking harms children for life
Particularly harmful is secondhand smoke for the respiratory tract of children and infants. These become more likely to suffer from bronchitis and pneumonia the more cigarettes are smoked in their environment. Your lung function is impaired and asthmatic complaints can be the result.
Every second child in Germany lives in a smoker's household. Every fifth child is already endangered by tobacco smoke in the womb.
Children look for and need the proximity of adults, so they are vulnerable to the harmful substances of tobacco smoke. It is important that as many places as possible, where children are often, become smoke-free. These include, in particular, public facilities such as kindergartens, schools and sports facilities.
Health consequences for children
The health risks of children from passive smoking range from disorders of the general condition such as abdominal pain and headaches, behavioral problems, learning difficulties and decreased physical performance to impaired lung function, which can have negative effects over the entire lifespan. The children may get otitis media, respiratory diseases, asthma, lung cancer and heart disease - it is also alleged that meningitis and brain tumors are caused by tobacco smoke.
Smoking in pregnancy
The smoking rate among women of childbearing age is particularly high - 40% of 20- to 39-year-old women in Germany smoke. The health risk for their children is serious. Every year, 154, 000 unborn children are exposed to smoke in the womb, which they absorb via the bloodstream of their smoking mothers.
The proportion of premature births and miscarriages among smokers is demonstrably higher than that of non-smokers. Babies who smoke are less tall at birth and weigh less than 200 grams on birth.
Only one-third of smokers stop smoking during pregnancy. After birth, two-thirds of them start smoking again in the first months after birth.
Smoking as the number one killer
Smoking is still a high health risk and the leading cause of premature mortality. Cigarettes are so harmful:
- Already when smoking one to ten cigarettes a day, the lung cancer risk is ten times higher compared to non-smokers.
- Smokers are also more vulnerable to arteriosclerosis and heart attack or stroke.
- Tobacco dependence may develop after short-term irregular smoking, even in childhood and adolescence.
- Half of all lifelong smokers die as a result of tobacco use.
- Each cigarette shortens life by five minutes. On average, a smoker loses about eight years of his life.