Second-hand smoke in a smoky bar or car can cause a person's airways to restrict after only 20 minutes of exposure, a new small study announced Tuesday found.
"Bars and cars are places where high concentrations of fine particles usually occur because of smoking," says Dr. Panagiotis Behrakis of the University of Athens. "Nonsmokers are then forced to inhale extreme amounts of particulates directly into their lungs."
He adds: "The observed short-term effects of secondhand smoke tell us that even a short exposure is indeed harmful for normal airways."
Behrakis and colleagues from the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece and the Harvard School of Public Health exposed 15 healthy subjects to smoky air for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, researchers measured their respiration using an impulse oscillometry, which is a noninvasive way to measure the physical properties of respiration during breathing.
Findings showed that while the subjects didn't notice anything, their breathing became "significantly and immediately" impacted from short exposure to a smoke-filled space. While secondhand smoking is less damaging than direct smoking, the researchers are urging that the issue of secondhand smoke be recognized as a global problem of human rights violation.
Behrakis presents the research this week at CHEST 2012, an annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) in Atlanta.
"Research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke can have short and long-term effects on our health, especially in children," said ACCP president-elect Dr. Darcy D. Marciniuk. "Although select states and cities have taken steps to eliminate smoking in restaurants, bars, and other public areas, more state and local governments need to acknowledge the dangers of secondhand smoking and follow suit."