Article_Smoking2_Flickr.jpgDancing the night away with your friends in a chic watering hole seems like a perfect way to end the daily grind at work. There’s just one thing that’s getting in the way of an otherwise stellar night: secondhand or passive smoke. This culprit seems like an impenetrable force in every bar or party, and an alarming ABS-CBN News report reveals that the cigarette level in bars is six times higher than other public establishments. That poses a big problem for non-smokers, and according to the Department of Health, the effects of secondhand smoke are “are similar to smoking a few sticks a day”. DOH warns that exposure to secondhand smoke “leads to a 35-50% risk for heart disease and 25% elevated risk of lung cancer. Constant exposure also nearly doubles the risk of a heart attack.”

The US National Cancer Institute warns that there is no “safe level of exposure” for cigarette smoke. That’s why it’s important for non-smokers to take the necessary precaution towards passive smoke. Here are five ways to do just that.


1. POLITELY ASK SMOKERS NOT TO SMOKE IN FRONT OF YOU

Manila Bulletin reports that 8.7 million Metro Manila residents admit that they are bothered by secondhand smoke, yet only eight percent actually air out their concerns. You may chalk it up to our non-confrontational nature as Filipinos, but the health risks posed by secondhand smoke are just too scary to ignore. It’s always better to speak up (and run the danger of getting into an argument with a smoker) than bear with the dangers of passive smoke. The same report indicates smokers’ response when being requested to stop smoking or smoke somewhere else: only 10% became angry, while 36% ignored the request. Interestingly, the remaining 54% either put their cigarettes down or proceeded to smoke somewhere else. It also helps to know the law. Just last January, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued a memorandum which prohibits smoking inside public utility vehicles and terminals.  Smoking is also banned in government buildings, health centers, schools and universities.


2. CHUG DOWN MORE VITAMIN C

Vitamin C boosts our immune system, our body’s line of defense against toxins and other harmful substances. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found out that Vitamin C supplements help in reducing secondhand smoke effects. The Reporter quotes the UC Berkeley research leader Marion Dietrich, Ph.D.:“These results are very encouraging. They show that vitamin C may help protect nonsmokers from the oxidative damage caused by secondhand smoke.”


3. USE A SURGICAL MASK WHEN YOU CAN

Surgical masks became the rage during the swine flu scare a couple of years back. While it’s not common here in the Philippines to wear one, it makes a pretty good shield against secondhand smoke. Always put one inside your bag so you can easily grab it when faced with an unavoidable secondhand smoke situation. If wearing a mask makes you uncomfortable, you can opt for a handkerchief instead.


4. INCREASE VENTILATION

If you find yourself in a sticky situation indoors with a smoker, you might want to try opening the windows and turning the fan on to increase ventilation. Keep in mind that while a bit of ventilation helps, it does not eliminate the effects of secondhand smoke altogether, so it’s better if you take refuge in the non-smoking area instead.


5. SPEND LESS TIME IN AREAS FREQUENTED BY SMOKERS

Secondhand smoke couldn’t harm you if you’re not around to inhale it. Try avoiding closed, confined areas frequented by smokers. Sadly, this means lesser time in smoke-filled areas like bars. But that doesn’t mean crying yourself out on a Friday night. Try substituting party nights with sleepover movie marathons or weekend getaways with your friends. There are various ways that you can still de-stress have fun, while doing your health a favor.

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(Photo courtesy of Valentin Ottone on Flickr Creative Commons;  Photo courtesy of Carlos Huerta on Flickr Creative Commons)

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