A new-long term study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine states that passive smoking does lead to respiratory troubles in healthy adults.
The conclusion as drawn by Dr. Margaret W. Gerbase of the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at the University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland, and her 11 associates who assessed the respiratory symptoms in 1,661 never-smokers over an 11-year period.
All individuals in the study group had participated in a Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults in 1991, and once again in 2002. The two-part study was the first large-scale investigation of the long-term health effects of moderate ambient air pollution in Switzerland.
Dr. Gerbase said, “The results of our longitudinal assessment of ETS effects in asymptomatic never-smokers showed that exposure to ETS was associated with the development of respiratory symptoms. A particularly strong effect of continued exposure to ETS was observed among previously asymptomatic individuals with bronchial hyper-reactivity.”
The researchers found that constant exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to be strongly associated with the development of cough.
In subjects with bronchial hyper-reactivity, they observed a link between ETS and symptoms like wheeze, cough, dyspnea (shortness of breath) and chronic bronchitis.
However, the condition that had the strongest association with ETS was dyspnea.
The authors of the study say that if steadily exposed to ETS, individuals with bronchial hyper-reactivity are most likely to develop early-onset chronic respiratory disease.
“Symptom development in our subjects was accompanied by decrements in spirometric indices reflecting peripheral airway narrowing, notably in subjects with bronchial hyper-responsiveness,” added Dr. Gerbase.
Of the 1,661 participants, 1,202 individuals reported never being exposed to ETS, 309 persons reported exposure only during the 1991 survey, and 150 subjects reported exposure both in 1991 and 2002.
“Indirect evidence derived from smokers shows that airway responsiveness increases the risk to develop cough, phlegm, dyspnea and chronic bronchitis. Cessation of smoking leads to remission of symptoms and improvement in airway hyper-reactivity,” said Dr. Gerbase.
Excluded from participation in the 1991 study were all potential participants who reported such symptoms as wheeze, cough, phlegm, dyspnea and chronic bronchitis, or who were taking a medication for asthma at the time.
The researchers concluded that their findings support the need for policies protecting all non-smokers from the “detrimental effects” of ETS.