An Honest Look at How Smoking Affects Everyone Around You
By Fred H. Kelley
Last week I was driving to the post office to ship some customer orders. I noticed a foul odor blowing out of my car’s air vents and I looked up at the car 5 car-lengths in front of me. Sure enough, I saw a hand reaching out through the driver’s window flicking the ashes from a cigarette. That was followed by a plume of smoke, headed straight for my car. I quickly reached down and closed the outside air vent.
Perhaps you believe that your smoking habit is just YOUR problem. Did you ever stop to analyze why non-smokers are so outspoken about smoking in public? The secondhand smoke issue is highly charged and still debated. But there’s more to the issue of how your smoking affects other people. This article is an honest look—a chance for you to evaluate the impact your smoking has on everyone around you. I encourage you to read the articles referenced in the endnotes for additional details.
The evidence continues to mount. Smoking during pregnancy does affect your unborn child. Developmental growth and birth weight in babies of smoking mothers is lower than babies of non-smoking mothers. These same “smoking” babies are more likely to be shorter in height, slower at reading and lower in “social adjustment” than children of nonsmoking mothers.
Statistics show that infant mortality—the death of the baby either at birth or through a miscarriage—is 50 percent higher when the mother smokes. That means nonsmoking parents experience half as many infant mortalities. The good news is that if you stop smoking by the fourth month of pregnancy, you can significantly reduce these dangers. 
“Women who smoke while pregnant pass NNK, a very potent carcinogen, to their babies still developing in the womb. Earlier research showed that offspring of animals treated with NNK developed tumors of the lung, trachea, liver, and other organs.” 
A recent study even suggests that individuals, whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, were predisposed to take up smoking themselves. If you smoke while pregnant, you may be encouraging your child to smoke, years from now! 
Newborn babies exposed to their mother’s smoking through breast feeding and environmental tobacco smoke show significantly higher levels of urinary cotinine. Cotinine is a major metabolite of nicotine, and is used as a marker for recent cigarette smoke exposure.
A study examined 507 infants, finding urinary cotinine levels during the first 2 weeks of life were significantly increased in infants whose mothers smoked. Breast-fed infants had higher cotinine levels than non-breast-fed infants, but this was statistically significant only if mothers smoked. Urinary cotinine levels were 5 times higher in breast-fed infants whose mothers smoked than in those whose mothers smoked but did not breast-feed. Babies definitely receive the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes through both breast feeding and environmental exposure. 
Children of smokers are also 2 1/2 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or crib death. One study found that nearly 60 percent of all SIDS cases could be prevented if smokers stopped smoking around babies and pregnant women. 
A meta-analysis of studies conducted after 1965 showed significant risk to children exposed to secondhand smoke of numerous ailments including asthma, tonsillectomy, lower respiratory tract infections, plus many others. Children were also at risk of death due to fires caused by cigarettes. 
One study reveals an incredible statistic: Children of smokers are nearly three times as likely to smoke as children of non-smokers. Parents, have you ever thought of yourself as a drug pusher? 
Does secondhand smoke cause cancer or other illness? Do we have to ask? This issue has divided the pro- and anti-smoking lobbies for many years. However, a study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released in November 1999, presents conclusive evidence, including 18 epidemiological studies linking secondhand smoke to coronary heart disease.
Donald Shopland, coordinator of NCI’s Smoking and Tobacco Control Program, notes that the report estimates that each year in the United States between 35,000 and 62,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur due to secondhand smoke exposure, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). “ETS exposures are related to much more than heart disease. When the thousands of ETS-related lung cancers and other diseases are considered, ETS clearly is a major cause of death in the United States,” said Shopland. 
Besides the obvious effects of smoking presented above, there are many other effects that you probably never considered.
First, smoking stinks. Never mind the health risks. The offensive odor intrudes on the noses of people all around you, from your family and co-workers, to patrons at public places such as restaurants and sporting events. While you may feel it is your right to smoke in public places, consider how you would feel if your next door neighbor suddenly opened a chicken farm in his back yard. The stench can be sickening. The issue is not so much a rights issues as much as it is a consideration issue. Treat the people around you with respect, the way that you’d expect them to treat you.
Aside from the smell of smoke, there’s also the issue of cigarette butts carelessly discarded along roadways and other public places. While most smokers would probably never consider tossing a used cup or hamburger wrapper out their car window, many don’t give a second thought to flicking one cigarette butt after another out the window. Don’t think one little butt matters? Consider that it takes one to five years for a cigarette butt to disintegrate, or biodegrade. 
What’s that? You only throw out perhaps one cigarette butt per pack. Ok, let’s examine that. You litter one butt for every 20 you smoke. That’s 5% of your cigarettes. Not much, right? Consider that the worldwide consumption of cigarettes is somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,050,000,000,000 per year. If “only” 5% of cigarette butts were discarded improperly, that means 302,500,000,000 butts are littering every street corner, parking lot, public park, and beach in the world. The next time you stop in your car at a stop light, look down next to your car. You’ll probably see dozens, if not hundreds of butts.
What do improperly discarded butts lead to, among other things? Yes, fires! Thousands of fires are started each year by carelessly discarded cigarette butts. Thousands of innocent victims are killed each year as a result of these fires. These fires and deaths are easily prevented if only you would take a moment to properly discard your butts.
How else does your smoking affect other people? Consider that your smoking habit costs hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. Add this amount up over 20 or 30 years, plus tack on the interest that money could have earned and you have wasted perhaps $100,000 or more! Just think what that money could have done for you and your family. One cigarette at a time, and no one notices. But if you pulled $100,000 out of your bank account, you’d be called a thief!
The financial costs don’t stop at the cigarettes alone. You’re also probably paying double or more for your health insurance. You’re also much more likely to incur doctor visits and medical expenses than are non-smokers. This costs you both for the treatment as well as the lost wages from your time off from work. The value of your car and home may also be reduced, due to the odor and filth of cigarettes.
Have your personal relationships been affected? Smoking can be very offensive to non-smokers. Many non-smokers won’t consider a smoker as a possible spouse. If you’re in sales, smoking may be killing deals because you smell bad, or have offensive breath. People buy *you*, not just your product!. Your career may even be stunted due to excessive smoke breaks. Smokers waste many hours each week taking breaks to satisfy their habit. Don’t think that your regular absences go unnoticed by your colleagues and your boss. While you’re outside relaxing, your co-workers are inside working. If you were the boss, to whom would you give a raise or promotion?
Your smoking also cheats your family and friends. When you die early (the average smoker will die eight years earlier than a non-smoker), you rob your family and friends of—you! If you are unfortunate enough to get sick at a very early age, you also threaten your children’s normal childhood, and seriously impact your spouse’s life. Consider your children, spouse, family and friends when you smoke next.
Finally, don’t forget that smoking cheats YOU! All of the foregoing information affects you. When you smoke, you are slowly robbing yourself.
The point of all this? Your smoking habit has far reaching consequences. Quitting smoking can erase these negative consequences and improve your life and the lives of so many other people around you. Start making plans today to quit smoking.
[Editors note: Since this article was published, most of the references are no longer found at their original location. Those that are still available are a clickable link below.]