Passive vs. Active Smoking: What's the Difference?

Posted by Gurseet Singh on

Let’s unravel the truth. Straightaway!

Smoking. Be it any kind — active or passive — it is hazardous to health. Period. Both you and the person exposed to your smoke are subjected to health risks. So, in a way, there is not much of a difference between active and passive smoking.

Did you know this, or has this statement come across to you as a rude shock? Wish to know why this is true and what you could do to not impact your loved ones? This blog has the answers. Read on.

Active smoking and passive smoking — Defined

Active smoking means that the person is lighting up a cigarette and smoking it. Active smokers directly inhale the mainstream smoke that is drawn through the end of the cigarette. The hazardous health aspects associated with cigarette smoke (that we see in anti-smoking messaging and campaigns) are certainly concerning active smoking.

Passive smoking, also known as second-hand smoking, refers to smoking that is achieved through the exhaled particles of an active smoker. It is breathing in a smoker’s tobacco. 

3 Major Differences Between active and passive smoking

A] Same predicament but usually a higher intensity in active smoking

Both active and passive smokers end up facing the same health concerns. Second-hand smoke is reported to result in coughing, headaches, sore throats and eye and nasal irritation. As a long-term consequence, it could cause serious lung conditions, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, active smokers end up having more adverse health effects unless the passive smokers are as exposed to cigarette smoke as the active smokers. 

B] Kind of smoke breathed

When a cigarette is smoked, the aerosol generated affects both active and passive smokers. Of course, both kinds of smokers are not exposed to the same kind of smoke. During a puff, the active smoker breathes in the mainstream smoke, whereas the passive smoker inhales two kinds of smoke:

  • The smoke that is exhaled by the active smoker.
  • The smoke that is generated by the lit cigarette. This kind of smoke could come from a cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah pipe, or joint. This smoke exhibits a greater risk than the above one, as it contains greater amounts of carcinogens and toxins.

Thus, there is no safe level when it comes to passive smoking. 

C] Level of dependence

In active smoking, there is psychological and chemical dependence. In passive smoking, there is only chemical dependence. Active smoking is characterized by staining of fingers and the oropharynx due to nicotine and scorching of the epithelium.

This is absent in passive smoking. Scientific studies only hint at the presence of high carbon monoxide and nicotine metabolites in the body in case of passive smoking.

So, what can be done to avoid passive smoking? You avoid smoking!

The highest exposure to second-hand smoke happens at home. Smoke has the propensity to spread throughout the house and stay in the air for hours. Wondering how you could then protect your loved ones from second-hand smoke? Keep the surrounding environment smoke-free. 

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