Secondhand Smoke Linked to Depression

You probably already know that secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, trigger asthma attacks, and increase your risk of allergies, respiratory irritation and infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Now, a study presented at the annual American Psychomatic Meeting shows that smoking can make you more likely to suffer from depression.

The University of Miami researchers found that nonsmokers who lived in homes or worked in job where smoking was allowed were more likely to be depressed. Similarly, depression correlated to a greater exposure to secondhand smoke; this was determined by serum cotinine levels, which is a more reliable way of determining how much cigarette smoke you actually inhale.

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including ammonia, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Nearly 50,000 people die from diseases caused by second-smoke, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). It can also affect cognitive function, which some studies have shown also plays a role in depression, inhibiting functions such as selective attention and mnemonic tasks.

You're most likely to inhale secondhand smoke at home, in your workplace, in the car, or in public places without smoking policies. Here's how to reduce your risk of inhaling these toxic fumes and potentially lower your chances of suffering from depression:

  • Implement a non-smoking policy at home. If you live with a smoker your risk of secondhand smoke is greatest, as you spend more time at home than anywhere else. Insist that your roommate smokes outdoors and away from your home if possible (otherwise, keep windows and doors closed).

  • Secure laundry as soon as possible. Cigarette smoke clings to clothes. If your partner smokes encourage him to immediately remove clothing and place it inside a laundry container with a lid.

  • Ban smoking in your car. When you're driving in a car you're literally being held hostage, as there's nowhere to go. Plus, levels of smoke build up quickly inside a car, states the ACS. If you're offered a ride from someone who smokes in the car, consider alternative transportation if possible.

  • Be proactive in public. If you're in a space that prohibits smoking, politely point that out to the smoker and ask them to go outside, recommends SmokeFree America, a national non-profit organization. If they refuse, speak to an employee or manager. If smoking isn't prohibited, ask the smoker if they would move; if not, you may need to seek a smoke-free area.

  • Speak to your employer. If your employer is living in the dark ages where smoking is concerned, it may be time to have a discussion about the benefits of a smoke-free workplace. You can explain that studies show banning smoking in the workplace reduces employee illness and absenteeism. The ACS also points out that preventing smokers from indulging inside the workplace encourages many to quit; for your employer, this means fewer smoke breaks and more time on the job.

  • Find out where your state stands. According to the American Lung Association, over 23 states have passed laws prohibiting smoking in public spaces and workplaces. You can read their "Secondhand Smoke Fact Sheet" on their site to find out if your state is included. That way you'll know you've got the law on your side when you're trying to protect yourself from secondhand smoke at work or in public spaces.

  • Seek out smoke-free entertainment. It's understandable that sometimes you're just not up for a confrontation. Instead, select restaurants and entertainment venues that already have smoke-free policies in place.

  • Choose smoke-free transportation. When you order a taxi or rent a car request a smoke-free vehicle in advance. Every bit helps when you're trying to reduce the risks associated with secondhand smoke, whether it's depression or lung cancer.


American Psychosomatic Association press release

Abstract: Secondhand Smoke Policy, Secondhand Smoke Exposure, and Depression Among non-Smokers