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Today (March 9) is No Smoking Day, and many people choose this day to ditch the cigarettes for the sake of their health. But smoking isn’t just about those who like cigarettes, as non smokers are at risk of developing health problems caused by passive smoking.
70-year-old Cathy Edgar grew up in a household where her dad and two of her brothers smoked heavily. At the time not much was known about the dangers of smoking, and as a child Cathy suffered from asthma and chest infections. As she got older Cathy, who has never smoked, developed two serious lung conditions. She told The Hour:
“I didn’t leave the house until I was 21 to be married, so it was years and years of chest infections and hospitals, and you just have to learn to live with it at the time.
I have bronchiectasis and something called aspergillosis of the lung, which is a fungus type infection which you breathe in through spores in the atmosphere.”
Bronchiectasis is a permanent abnormal widening of the airways, which causes extra mucus to form, prone to infection. Symptoms include coughing up large amounts of sputum, tiredness, wheeziness and recurring chest infections. Aspergillosis can cause coughing, fever, chest pain and difficulty breathing. In extreme cases sufferers of the disease can suffer from acute kidney failure, liver fever and death.
A study carried out last year, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that 600 thousand people worldwide die every year as a result of passive smoking. The Hour’s resident doctor Debbie Wake said:
“There is no doubt from the research that passive smoking definitely increases your risk of almost every cancer - lung cancer being the most well-known one - heart disease, stroke and other lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. In a household with two smokers, children will breathe in the equivalent of 150 cigarettes a year.”
The most common lung conditions caused by second hand smoke are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which both cause a narrowing of the airways and lead to breathing difficulties. COPD is the most common smoke-related illness in the UK.
“Within 20 minutes of stopping smoking the heart rate comes down and the blood pressure comes down,” said Dr Debbie. “Within a year of stopping smoking your risk of heart disease if halved and within three or four years of stopping your risk of lung cancer is halved. 15 years after you’ve stopped you’re reduced your risk of heart disease back to normal.
“Some of the damage is repairable so it’s always worth giving up smoking. No matter how old you are there are definite health benefits.”
Formore information on smoke-related illnesses or if you are a smoker and are keen to quit, see the No Smoking Day website.