Secondhand smoke in cars, bars impairs breathing within 20 minutes

Heavy concentrations of secondhand smoke, such as those found in smoke-filled bars and cars, can lead to airway restriction for bystanders within minutes of exposure. The study, presented at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, showed that after 20 minutes of exposure to highly concentrated secondhand smoke, participants experienced near immediate physiologic changes, including airway resistance and impedance.

"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."

In order to test the effects of short-term , Dr. Behrakis and colleagues from the University of Athens and the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece, and the Harvard School of Public Health, exposed 15 healthy participants to air heavily concentrated with smoke particulates within an exposure chamber—simulating a bar or moving car—for 20 minutes. During this time, researchers measured participants' total respiratory impedance, resistance, and reactance with the use of an impulse oscillometry, a noninvasive way of measuring the physical properties of respiratory movement during quiet breathing.

Results showed that short-term exposure to concentrated secondhand smoke significantly and immediately impacted participants' airways, invoking such physiologic changes as increased airway impedance and resistance. Participants showed no clinical signs or feelings of discomfort during the test.

Although exposure to secondhand smoke appears to be slightly less harmful than direct smoking, Dr. Behrakis believes secondhand smoking should be recognized as a global health issue. "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 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."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Living with a smoker may raise blood pressure in boys

May 01, 2011

Exposure to secondhand smoke, even at extremely low levels, is associated with increased blood pressure in boys, according to new research being presented Sunday, May 1, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting ...

Recommended for you

Jamaica Senate starts debate on pot decriminalization bill

Jan 30, 2015

Jamaica's Senate on Friday started debating a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot and establish a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medical marijuana industry on the island where the drug ...

Can Lean Management improve hospitals?

Jan 30, 2015

Waiting times in hospital emergency departments could be cut with the introduction of Lean Management and Six Sigma techniques according to new research.

Research finds 90 percent of home chefs contaminate food

Jan 30, 2015

If you're gearing up for a big Super Bowl bash, you might want to consult the best food-handling practices before preparing that feast. New research from Kansas State University finds that most home chefs drop the ball on ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.