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Secondhand Smoke Adds to Risk for Smokers

Study Shows Smokers Face Danger From Their Own Exhaled Tobacco Smoke
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 28, 2010 -- The dangers of secondhand smoke may not be limited to nonsmokers.

A new study shows that smokers who inhale their own secondhand smoke in enclosed spaces like smoking lounges add significantly to the health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

The study shows that for a smoker who smokes 14 cigarettes a day, inhaling his or her own secondhand smoke by smoking in an enclosed space results in exposure to the equivalent of smoking another 2.6 cigarettes.

Researchers say the results contradict the prevailing assumption that the additional dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke would be negligible in comparison to the risks associated with directly inhaling cigarette smoke for smokers.

"Both active and passive smoking contributions should always be considered in studies about health of active smokers," says researcher Maria Teresa Piccardo of the National Cancer Research Institute in Genoa, Italy, in a news release.

The study, published in Environmental Health, analyzed the contribution of secondhand smoke to total carcinogen (the cancer causing-compounds in tobacco) exposure in 15 smokers who worked as newsagents in Italy.

"Newsagents were chosen because they work alone in small newsstands, meaning that any tobacco smoke in the air they breathe is strictly correlated to the number of cigarettes smoked by that newsagent," says Piccardo.

The results showed that secondhand smoke accounted for between 15% and 23% for regular cigarettes and 21%-34% for light cigarettes of a measure of carcinogen exposure.

The average smoker in the study smoked 14 cigarettes per day; inhaling of the smoker's own secondhand smoke added the carcinogen equivalent of smoking another 2.6 regular cigarettes.

In addition, inhaling secondhand smoke from other smokers in the environment added the equivalent of 1.3 regular cigarettes to daily carcinogen exposure.

Researchers say the findings suggest that the total carcinogen exposure from smokers' own smoking habits as well as exposure to the dangers of secondhand smoke in enclosed spaces like smoking lounges should be considered in determining their health risk.

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