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What is second-hand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is the sidestream (smoke from the lit end of your cigarette) and smoke you exhale which goes into the air. If anyone is around you, they can then breathe the smoke in themselves (this is also known as passive smoking) which can affect their health. 

Secondhand smoke is one of the many reasons people may decide to quit smoking as they are concerned for the health of their family and friends as well as themselves, especially when children are at risk. In this article we’ll discuss some of the dangers of secondhand smoke and what changes you can make to prevent it. 

What are the dangers of secondhand smoke? 

Passive smoking can leave people vulnerable to developing the same health issues as smokers. When you smoke near others, they may experience sore throats, headaches, coughing and suffer irritation to their eyes and nasal passages in the short-term, but here are some of the long-term dangers involved with breathing in secondhand smoke:

  • You could develop some cancers - secondhand smoke can increase the risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30% (NHS inform)
  • You’re more at risk of suffering from breathing issues such as allergies and asthma
  • You could develop blood clots - secondhand smoke can make the blood stickier, leading to blood clots. There are many complications that come with the formation of blood clots as they block arteries, including: strokes, heart attacks, angina and heart failure.
  • You could develop heart disease
  • Pregnant women are more prone to having a premature birth and their babies may have a low birth weight or even be at higher risk of cot death
  • Children are particularly vulnerable as their immune systems and lungs have not yet fully developed. According the NHS, children who live in a household with one smoker are more likely to develop the following:
  • Chest infections
  • Coughs and colds
  • Ear infections
  • Asthma
  • Meningitis 

If you or someone you know is a smoker and lives with children, they should be encouraged to smoke away from them in order to protect them from developing any diseases or health issues. Moreover, those with existing breathing or heart conditions are also more at risk so it’s important to consider this when smoking in public to help keep everyone safe. 

If you are considering stopping smoking (whether that be because you’re worried for those around you or down to other reasons), there are lots of advantages to help motivate you. Those that stop smoking benefit from:

  • Being able to breathe easier - when you stop smoking, your lung capacity improves by up to 10% within just 9 months (NHS)
  • Having more energy as your blood circulation improves and you feel less tired due to a rise in oxygen levels
  • Feeling less stressed or able to handle stressful situations better (although you may suffer from heightened stress initially as your body experiences nicotine withdrawal)
  • Being less at risk of diseases such as artery disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  • Living longer (as you are less at risk of developing health complications)
  • Saving money - smoking can be an expensive habit and according to Nicorette, the average pack of cigarettes costs £10.76 which can mount up very quickly as days, weeks and months go by. You can use this calculator to see how much money you could save by quitting. 


These are just some of the many reasons why you or someone you love should consider stopping smoking. You can find out more on why you should stop smoking here.

Is e-cig vapour harmful?

E-cigarettes (also known as vapes) don’t produce tobacco smoke so the risks of secondhand smoking mentioned earlier do not apply. Instead, e-cigs produce a vapour but evidence suggests that this is not as harmful as cigarette smoke as it contains very small amounts of nicotine. 

That said, there is still limited evidence around the risks associated with vaping so research is still ongoing. You may be advised by a healthcare professional to refrain from vaping around children, babies and pregnant women until we know more about whether there are any health risks associated with e-cigs.

You can read our blog about e-cigarettes and whether vaping is better than smoking for more information. 

How can you avoid secondhand smoke? 

To prevent secondhand smoke from affecting those around you, you need to ensure that their surroundings are smoke-free. The best way to prevent secondhand smoke would of course be to stop smoking entirely but many smokers may not be ready to take that jump right away; quitting smoking can be challenging as nicotine is addictive so it can take time to wean off of cigarettes at a pace that’s comfortable. 

So, if you are not ready to completely stop smoking or you’re looking to smoke less, you can protect others by smoking in an area away from them and never smoke indoors or inside a car. When you feel the need to smoke, take yourself outside away from others and ask any of your visitors who smoke to do the same. 

It’s important to remember that even if you do feel as though you are smoking “safely”, secondhand smoke is often invisible and you may not even smell it. Simply smoking by open windows or doorways is not enough as the smoke can travel and even remain in the air for up to five hours

Looking to stop smoking? 

If you live in Dorset and you’d like support to stop smoking or you know someone who does, we’re here to help!

Here at LiveWell Dorset, our goal is to keep you and your loved ones healthy and we have a friendly team of professional advisors and coaches who can guide you as you try to smoke less and manage your cravings. Simply register or have a chat with us today to start your journey to become smoke-free.


"The LiveWell team are amazing. Every time I speak to them, they are so helpful. Having someone on the end of the phone is an amazing boost."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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