September 10, 2019

The Harms of Secondhand Smoke

secondhand smoke

In 1969 I is was sitting in a white VW Beetle in the back seat along with my brother and sister on our family vacation from the Cleveland area to New England. The three of us had the “good fortune” of having two parents in the front who smoked the entire trip with the windows up most of the time subjecting us to the then-unknown harms of secondhand smoke.

Vision a white VW Bug cruising down the highway with a fog of smoke on the inside. Because that’s what it was. Fortunately, I think the three of us have avoided the harms of secondhand smoke – at least so far.

Harms of Secondhand Smoke

What are the harms of secondhand smoke? According to the CDC secondhand smoke contributes to 41,000 deaths a year (about 32,000 people die each year from motor vehicle accidents). and 400 infant deaths each year. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop severe asthma, acute respiratory infections, and slower lung development.

Thirty-four thousand (34,000) premature deaths related to secondhand smoke are cardiovascular disease. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have a 25% to 30% increased risk of developing heart disease. Strokes increase by 20% to 30% for sufferers of secondhand smoke. Much of the remainder of the 41,000 annual death from secondhand smoke are stroke-related.

Secondhand smoke makes the platelets in the blood more sticky making clots in the blood that block blood flow easier to form.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.

Historic Vacation

Despite the unpleasantness of being trapped in a car with secondhand smoke, the vacation ended up being a historical trip. We witnessed the take-off of Apollo 11 (July 16) and the first moon landing (July 20) from hotel rooms. And, we arrived in Hyannis Port, the home of the Kennedy family compound, the day after the Chappaquiddick accident (July 18). One main purpose of the trip was to drive by the Kennedy compound which we were unable to do as the roads leading to it were blocked by the authorities as a result of Chappaquiddick incident.

We saw Plymouth Rock. We went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Drove up to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. My dad played minor league ball for Batavia, New York and played some games in Old Orchard Beach. So we drove by the stadium there as well as in Batavia.

At Old Orchard Beach I found myself on the beach playing catch with a ball by myself until a middle-aged man came up to me and asked if I wanted to play catch. His name was Mel Didier who was the director of scouting and player development for the expansion Montreal Expos of the National League. The Expos were in the middle of their first season in 1969. Mr. Didier later sent us a book on baseball skill development, Power Baseball, that he co-authored and which I still have.

Despite the exposure to secondhand smoke, it was a great vacation!

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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