‘Important to protect people from second-hand smoke’

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On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, oncologists have highlighted the widespread impact of second-hand smoke in India due to its health consequences on non-smokers.

Dr. Udbhav Kathpalia, Associate Consultant in Surgical Oncology at Sarvodaya Hospital, said, “In India, over 38% of adults are exposed to second-hand smoke at home and 30% at work. Its annual direct economic costs amount to 0.33% of India’s GDP, or 8.1% of total healthcare expenditure in the country. In fact, this is much larger than the total excise tax revenue generated by the Govt. of India from cigarettes and bidis! As bidi smoking is the most popular form of smoking and these are mostly consumed by the poor, a disproportionate burden of second-hand smoke is borne by poor households in India.”

Health problems caused by secondhand smoke in non-smoking adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Women can suffer from adverse reproductive health effects.

Dr. Udbhav Kathpalia said, “Second-hand smoke is also harmful for infants and children. It can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, ear infections and middle-ear disease, asthma attacks, and slowed lung growth. Women exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have newborns with lower birth weights.”

He added: “Creating awareness among people about avoiding smoking in public places and closed spaces as well as when at work would be one of the biggest steps in curbing the menace of second-hand smoke. Although the Government has made public places non-smoking places, the public also needs self-policing. Doctors need to educate people regarding the growing concern about secondhand smoke. Stricter policies regarding the ban on tobacco products are required.”