World Lung Cancer Day is obeserved annually on 1 August with the aim to raise and create awareness about lung cancer. The main purpose of the day is to educate people about the habits and the factors that can cause lung cancer. The day was first organised in 2012 by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies in association with the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) and the American College of Chest Physicians.
As we celebrate World Lung Cancer Day, we need to understand what all can cause lung cancer. Environmental tobacco smoke is a common source of indoor air pollution worldwide and its inhalation is known as passive smoking. According to Dr Ayush Gupta – Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj – passive smoking exposes people to the same carcinogens as active smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer. Consequently, passive smoking is considered as important cause of lung cancer in never smokers, increasing their risk of the disease.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 40% of children, 33% of males, and 35% of females identified as never smokers are exposed to passive smoking. Overall, approximately one-fifth of lung cancer cases are attributable to passive smoking. The home is the predominant site of exposure to passive smoking, especially for women and children. Since people smoke more frequently at home to avoid the restriction at public places, it is imperative that public health policy is formulated to reduce passive smoking at home.
Further measures are needed to control against the harmful effects of passive smoking, especially in women, and it is recommend that public health efforts should prioritize reducing levels of passive smoking in the home. It appears that the biggest gains can be achieved here, not only by preventing lung cancer but also by preventing other diseases associated with passive smoking.
At an individual level, one should try to stay away from the people while they are smoking. The use of biomass fuels for cooking in poorly ventilated indoor kitchens should be strongly discouraged, especially in the villages where it continues to be widely used.
With combined and coercive efforts at both individual and government level, it is surely possible to reduce the risk of passive smoking in the vulnerable population and to make people aware of its serious ill effects.