Regardless of the fact that there are varying opinions on the exact effects caused by cigarette smoking, there is general agreement that it is unhealthy. Unfortunately, the adverse effects are not restricted to those individuals who smoke, but rather affect everyone who breathes in cigarette smoke. In fact, there are some who argue that secondhand smoke is even more dangerous than direct smoke. Furthermore, research has slowly uncovered the fact that there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke exposure since it contains numerous toxins that are harmful to the lungs and body.
Cigarette Smoke and Pets
Few people realize that pets can be affected by exposure to secondhand smoke just as humans can. The ASPCA does list tobacco smoke as a dangerous toxin, with their Animal Poison Control Center medical director asserting that the nicotine in secondhand smoke can affect a pet’s nervous system, while tobacco smoke contains dangerous, cancer-causing compounds. Pets in smoking homes can suffer from respiratory problems, allergies, nasal and lung cancer and lymphoma.
It is because pets share basic common physiology with humans that many of the things that are toxic to humans are toxic to pets, and vice versa. This includes not only secondhand smoke but also what Harvard Medical School researchers referred to as “third-hand smoke”. This is the toxic gases and other particles that attach to everything in the vicinity, including hair, clothing, upholstery, carpeting and even walls, and remains there long after smoking has stopped. It is often responsible for the unpleasant odor that tends to linger despite the individual’s best attempts at cleaning it away. Unfortunately, this means that in addition to breathing in secondhand smoke, a pet in a smoking household is also lying directly on the surfaces where toxic gases and particles have accumulated, and then they groom themselves (especially cats) and ingest these gases and particles.
A series of different studies have proven just how dangerous cigarette smoke can be for pets:
- In 1998, a research study from Colorado State University indicated that there was a higher incidence of nasal tumors and sinus cancer in dogs living in smoking households than in dogs living in non-smoking households. This study also indicated that dogs with shorter nasal passages, like boxers and bulldogs, who lived in smoking households suffered from higher rates of lung cancer than the same types of dogs who lived in non-smoking households.
- In 2002, a research study from Tufts University indicated a link between secondhand smoke and cancer in domestic cats. This study determined that cats who lived in smoking households were twice as likely to develop the most common feline cancer–malignant lymphoma–than those who live in non-smoking households.
- In 2007, a research study from Minnesota University indicated that cats living in smoking households have measurable quantities of nicotine and other toxins in their urine.
- In 2007, a research study from Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine indicated a link between secondhand smoke and oral cancer in domestic cats. The rates were even higher where cats lived within households with more than one smoker.
Domesticated birds can also be adversely affected by smoke. Veterinarian Dr. Carolynn MacAllister of Oklahoma State University says that birds who are exposed to secondhand smoke can develop pneumonia, lung cancer, eye, skin, heart and fertility problems, coughing, wheezing, dermatitis and more.
Put simply, pets and smoking just don’t mix. And while adults certainly have a right to do as they choose in their own home, pet owners have a responsibility to provide their pets with everything they need to live a healthy, happy life–including a healthy home environment. This is especially important since pets cannot speak up when they don’t like something or don’t feel well, and they certainly cannot choose to just leave the home. Their owners, however, can choose to go outside or elsewhere to smoke, or quit smoking altogether–either action for which their pets would surely thank them if they could.