Non Smoking Signs
Do Not Smoke Signs
Formaldehyde, cyanide, and acetylene (fuel used in welding torches) are just some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
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Smoking and public health

Evidence demonstrating the adverse effects of smoking on a person’s health has been steadily mounting since the 1960s, when the American Lung Association first began sounding the alarm about associated risks. At present, the global scientific community agrees that cigarette smoke is dangerous for passive as well as active smokers, and that people should be informed when they might be exposed to secondhand smoke. For this reason, non-smoking signs are a common sight in cities and towns across the country.

Historically, tobacco companies have spent considerable effort downplaying the health risks of cigarettes. In 1994, for instance, while testifying before Congress, seven tobacco executives declared under oath that nicotine was not addictive. Study after study has shown the opposite to be true.

Even now, the R.J. Reynolds (manufactures of Camel, Winston, and other tobacco products) website includes language and information that could be seen as misleading. Under the heading “Tobacco Use & Health,” the company explains, “nicotine in tobacco products is addictive but is not considered a significant threat to health.” That depends on whom you ask. In 2011, researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience suggesting that addictive drugs like nicotine (as well as, they point out, cocaine) create “long-term changes in brain reward pathways,” essentially hijacking powerful memory mechanisms to favor certain neurological connections over others.

As for secondhand smoke, well, that picture isn’t exactly a rosy one either. The World Health Organization contends that one in every ten tobacco-related deaths results from passive, secondhand, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) inhalation. Although it has been long downplayed as virtually harmless or at least less worrisome to the public than smoking itself, the CDC says it’s responsible for many cases of heart disease and lung cancer in adults, and problems ranging from ear and respiratory infections to a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in children.

For years, tobacco companies disguised or denied findings that showed a link between their products and disease. The Wired Science blog reported on this cover-up in 2007, citing an article in Circulation, a journal published by the American Heart Association entitled “Tobacco Industry Efforts Undermining Evidence Linking Secondhand Smoke With Cardiovascular Disease.” What might be even more troubling is that Big Tobacco knew about many of the associated health hazards of secondhand smoke as early as 1981. For roughly two decades they withheld data showing that secondhand smoke increases cardiovascular disease risk by as much as 30 percent.

The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Lung Association have released copious amounts of information that correlates secondhand smoke and poor health. Indisputably, cigarette smoke contains a plethora of chemical compounds, 69 of which are either toxic or known to cause cancer, including arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and polonium-210, a radioactive chemical element. Any amount of exposure to secondhand smoke is potentially harmful, especially over time. To date, the only proven way to eliminate the negative health effects of secondhand smoke is to prevent any and all exposure to it.

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