The Healthy Geezer

The Healthy Geezer


Question: I live with my 40-year-old son and he smokes like the proverbial chimney around the house. Iím afraid of what itís doing to his health.

What can I do to get him to quit?


Answer: Tell him he may be killing you with his secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke — also called environmental tobacco smoke — is made up of the so-called sidestream smoke from the end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the mainstream smoke that is exhaled. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb the same 4,000 chemical compounds that smokers do. More than 60 of these compounds are known or suspected to cause cancer.

Each year, in the United States alone, secondhand smoke is responsible for about 40,000 deaths from heart disease, and about 3,000 lung-cancer deaths.


Secondhand smoke causes increased cardiovascular risks by damaging blood vessels, decreasing your ability to exercise and altering blood cholesterol levels.

Some research indicates that people exposed to a spouseís cigarette smoke for several decades are about 20 percent more likely to have lung cancer.

Those who are exposed long-term to secondhand smoke in the workplace or in social settings may increase their risk of lung cancer by about 25 percent.

Some of the components found in tobacco smoke that are known to cause cancer or are suspected to be carcinogenic include: formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium, benzene and ethylene oxide.


Here are a few other chemicals in tobacco smoke, along with their effects: ammonia (irritates lungs), carbon monoxide (hampers breathing), methanol (toxic when inhaled) and hydrogen cyanide (interferes with respiration).

On the national level, several laws restricting smoking in public places have been passed. Smoking is also banned on all domestic airline flights and nearly all flights between the United States and foreign destinations. All interstate bus travel is smoke free. Smoking is also prohibited or restricted to specially designated areas on trains traveling within the United States.


Many states and local governments have passed laws prohibiting smoking in public facilities such as schools, hospitals, airports and bus terminals. Some states also require private employers to create policies that protect employees who do not smoke.

Several local communities have enacted nonsmokersí rights laws, most of which are stricter than state laws.

Although air-conditioning may remove the visible smoke in your home, it canít remove the particles that continue to circulate and are hazardous to your health, so donít delude yourself that running the air conditioner is the answer to secondhand smoke dangers.


To solve your problem, you should try to get your son to seek help in fighting his addiction to nicotine. There are many programs available.

Call your doctor for some recommendations. Meanwhile, for your own health, you should insist that he not smoke in your house.


If you have a question, please write to


All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2008 by Fred Cicetti.