Cotinine and the risks of passive smoking
Cotinine. You may never have heard of it, but it is this chemical that has helped scientists to show that passive smoking has a measurable impact on non-smokers who inhale smoke from cigarettes, therefore allowing smoking bans to be enforced.
Cotinine is a chemical compound that is one of the constituent parts tobacco smoke is broken down into as it is metabolised in the body. In itself, cotinine is not a harmful substance, but is a very useful indicator of how much tobacco smoke has been inhaled by a person, either by way of direct smoking or through ‘passive smoking’.
Passive smoking can result in many severe medical conditions, including cancer, lung disease, and asthma amongst others, and is thought to cause thousands of deaths in the UK every year. The introduction of the smoking ban in the UK was an attempt to reduce this number, and we are now starting to see the parameters of smoke free zones extending, even into certain outdoor spaces, such as outside building entrances, on outdoor terraces at restaurants and even on the grounds of some premises altogether.
The air in different environments can be tested for cotinine levels to establish the potential risk of passive tobacco smoke inhalation. Studies have also tested the level of cotinine in the people’s saliva, both before and after smoking bans were introduced. Results in one study in New Zealand found that the risks of passive smoking were reduced by up to 90% following the smoking ban.
Whilst smokers may have found a great deal of nuisance in the smoking ban, there is no doubt the risks of non-smokers developing cigarette smoke associated disease is greatly reduced through smoking bans in public places.