Smoking Doesn’t Just Hurt Humans — It’s Killing Our Pets

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
September 20, 2018

It’s well-known that smoking is terrible for humans. Nearly half a million Americans die from smoking-related diseases every year.[1] Second-hand smoking causes over 40,000 deaths.[2]

But there’s an overlooked group that suffers as well: pets. Animals that live in homes with smokers have much higher risks of developing many fatal diseases.

To protect humans and pets from the dangers of smoking, future medical and veterinary professionals must be educated on the many connections between animal and human health.

Many of our furry friends live in homes with smokers. Nearly 40 million[3] Americans smoke cigarettes, and roughly 70 percent of U.S. households have a pet.[4]

Research proves that smoking hurts pets. Dogs that live in smoking households, for instance, have a 60 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer than those that do not, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.[5]

Cats are at an even higher risk. In addition to inhaling smoke, when grooming, felines ingest carcinogens that are trapped in their fur.[6] Cats living in smoking households are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma — a disease that has no cure[7] and kills 75 percent of diagnosed cats within a matter of months.[8]

Pets that are exposed to cigarette smoke can also hurt non-smoking humans. I’ve studied the subject extensively. In a new analysis, a team of researchers, including myself, found that so-called third-hand smoke exposure hurts people.[9] Third-hand smoke exposure occurs because a pets’ fur can absorb cigarette smoke. So animals that are previously exposed to smoke can continue to carry harmful carcinogens and chemicals, and then introduce them to non-smoking individuals.[10]

As a result, smoking has far greater public health consequences than previously anticipated.

At St. George’s, we train our students in the “One Health” approach, which emphasizes the intersections between human and animal health. To adequately prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals, it’s critical to adopt this mindset.

 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm

[2] http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/health-effects-of-secondhand-smoke.html

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/index.htm

[4] https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-pet-statistics

[5] https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/passive-smoking-hurts-pets-as-much-as-people

[6] https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/passive-smoking-hurts-pets-as-much-as-people

[7] https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/cancer/c_ct_lymphoma?page=2

[8] https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/passive-smoking-hurts-pets-as-much-as-people

[9] Bidaisee, Satesh. Tobacco smoke exposure and household pets: A systematic literature review examining the health risk to household pets and new indications of exposed pets affecting human health.

[10] Bidaisee, Satesh. Tobacco smoke exposure and household pets: A systematic literature review examining the health risk to household pets and new indications of exposed pets affecting human health.

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