I’m finding it hard to cope with my partner’s smoking habit
QMy partner is a heavy smoker and, despite requests to him to smoke outside, I often come down to a smelly, fumefilled kitchen in the morning.
Now that I’m retired I’m finding it hard to live with. Short of ending the relationship, are there any measures I can take to protect my own health?
AThe harm of second-hand smoke has not been known about for as long as we have known about the damage the habit wreaks in the smoker. Second-hand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the cigarette (or pipe, or cigar), and the smoke that is breathed out from the smoker’s lungs.
There is also something called third-hand smoke, which refers to the chemicals that are deposited on to surfaces in the environment – such as your table or kitchen blinds.
The smoke that passive smokers inhale, despite their best efforts to avoid it, contains nicotine, benzene – which causes leukaemia – and other cancer-causing chemicals, called carcinogens. These have been proven to bind to the genetic code in your cells and cause damage.
We now know that household exposure to second-hand smoke for 25 smoker years, including childhood and adolescence, doubles the risk of lung cancer in the nonsmoker. A separate study has shown that if your spouse smokes, you have a 30 percent increased risk of lung cancer.
We now also know that exposure to second-hand smoke in healthy volunteers damages the linings of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle, raising the risk of coronary heart disease.
As there are no devices able to clean a sufficient volume of air in your home to be effective at reducing the risks, all efforts must be directed at supporting your partner in quitting smoking for the sake of his own health, as well as yours. If he is unwilling or unable, then there must be a policy established that he should smoke outside the home. This is because allowing smoking in the house, even with restrictions, offers little protection, as neither air filters nor increasing the ventilation is a sufficient control measure.
The smoke also leaves a residue of nicotine and other toxic substances in household dust and on surfaces, and such cancercausing toxins can be absorbed through the skin or by contact with foods.
Most GP practices offer good support on quitting smoking – which, as any ex-smoker knows, can be quite a mountain to climb. They can also prescribe nicotine replacement products. Nicorette, Champex and Zyban are among the most popular treatments.
HARMFUL: Being around a smoker can be just as much a hazard to your health as being a smoker yourself, as shown in this Brazilian anti-smoking advertisement.