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Secondhand smoke

What is secondhand smoke?

You are a non-smoker, should you celebrate that you are safe? Exposure to second hand smoke poses health threats similar to those in smoking. Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes and water-pipes.

There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

Secondhand Smoke and adults

In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke inhale many of the same cancer-causing substances. Secondhand smoke can cause heart attacks; according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, even relatively brief exposure can trigger a heart attack.

Secondhand Smoke and Children

Secondhand smoke is more harmful to young children; it causes numerous health problems; children who inhale second hand smoke are likely to get more frequent and severe asthma attacks, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Wheezing and coughing are also more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.

In pregnant women;

Second hand smoke causes low birth weight.

Secondhand Smoke in public places

Malawi has no has no smoke-free zones, exposing non-smokers to secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that the health of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work is at increased risk. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars were found to be two- to five-times higher than in residences with smokers, and two- to six-times higher than in office workplaces

How to protect yourself and your family!

Every person in Malawi should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air. Whilst Malawi as a country has no smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers, you can protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke by taking the following actions;

  • Not allowing anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home.
  • Not allowing anyone to smoke in your car, even with the window down.
  • Make sure your children’s day care centers and schools are tobacco-free.
  • Look for restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking.


World Health Organization, (9 March 2018) Tobacco, Extracted from

Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke extracted from:

Centre for disease control and prevention (2017, January 11) Health effects of second hand smoke Extracted from: