I’m find­ing it hard to cope with my part­ner’s smoking habit

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE - You can send your med­i­cal ques­tions to the doc­tor at dr@dar­ren­green.co.za or Twit­ter @dr­dar­ren­green

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.

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