The negative effects of secondhand smoke have been documented for decades, and now researchers are urging consumers to avoid all smoky environments in an effort to protect their health.
“Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke regardless of whether the smoker is still in the room,” said researcher Byung Jin Kim. “Our study in non-smokers shows that the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) is higher with longer duration of passive smoking -- but even the lowest amounts are dangerous.”
Reducing health risks
The study included over 130,000 participants, all of whom never smoked. The researchers measured their urine levels to gauge how exposure to secondhand smoke affected their health -- specifically their blood pressure.
The researchers found that participants who had high blood pressure at the start of the study were at a greater risk of feeling the negative health effects of secondhand smoke. Those who breathed in secondhand smoke at work or at home were over seven percent more likely to have high blood pressure, compared with 5.5 percent of participants whose homes and workplaces were secondhand smoke-free.
Similarly, exposure to secondhand smoke at work or at home was nearly 28 percent more likely for those with high blood pressure, compared with over 22 percent of participants who didn’t have high blood pressure.
“The results suggest that it is necessary to keep completely away from secondhand smoke, not just reduce exposure, to protect against hypertension,” Kim said.
Creating better legislation
Exposure to secondhand smoke in several capacities increased consumers’ risk for developing hypertension. For example, a prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke of 10 years or more increased the risk of hypertension by 17 percent, while being exposed to secondhand smoke in the home or at work increased the risk of high blood pressure by 13 percent. Additionally, the researchers found that consumers over the age of 20 who lived with a smoker were 15 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure.
The researchers hope that legislators prioritize consumers’ health and use these findings to craft stricter smoking laws.
“While efforts have been made around the world to minimise the dangers of passive smoking by expanding no smoking areas in public places, our study shows that more than one in five never-smokers are still exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Kim. “Stricter smoking bans are needed, together with more help for smokers to kick the habit. Knowing that family members suffer should be extra motivation for smokers to quit.”