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Secondhand Smoke in Cars, Bars Affects Breathing Almost Immediately

Update Date: Oct 22, 2012 05:37 PM EDT

While the choice of smoking cigarettes is totally at the discretion of individuals, but to what extent one takes in secondhand smoke, is something that one really does not have a lot of control over.

There have been multiple reports on how passive smoking can pose dangers to people's health, and here is yet another report on the same grounds.

According to a new study, heavy concentrations of secondhand smoke in places usually filled with smoke, such as bars and cars, can lead to airway restriction for bystanders within minutes of exposure.

The findings of the study have revealed that within 20 minutes of exposure to highly concentrated secondhand smoke, participants displayed physiologic changes, including airway resistance and impedance, Medical Xpress reported.

"Bars and cars are places where high concentrations of fine particles usually occur because of smoking. Nonsmokers are then forced to inhale extreme amounts of particulates directly into their lungs," said Panagiotis Behrakis, MD, FCCP, of the University of Athens, Greece.

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

For the study, the researchers exposed 15 healthy participants to air heavily concentrated with smoke particulates within an exposure chamber, with an atmosphere very similar to a bar or moving car, for 20 minutes.

The researchers during the experiment, measured participants' total respiratory impedance, resistance, and reactance.

The findings of the tests revealed that that short-term exposure (20 minutes) to concentrated secondhand smoke almost immediately affected the participants' airways, invoking such physiologic changes as increased airway impedance and resistance.

However, in spite of the changes recorded during the tests, participants of the experiment did not show any feelings of discomfort.

While passive smoking appears to be slightly less harmful than direct smoking, Dr. Behrakis believes secondhand smoking should be recognized as a global health issue, the report said.

"Secondhand smoking is the most widespread form of violence exerted on children and workers on a global level. The whole issue of secondhand smoke needs to be recognized as a global problem of human rights violation."

"Research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke can have short and long-term effects on our health, especially in children," said ACCP President-Elect Darcy D. Marciniuk, MD, FCCP.

"Although select states and cities have taken steps to eliminate smoking in restaurants, bars, and other public areas, more state and local governments need to acknowledge the dangers of secondhand smoking and follow suit."

The study was presented at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

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