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"Can I get emphysema from secondhand smoke?"


Hi. My husband is a heavy smoker and I am worried about getting emphysema through secondhand smoke. What can I do? He tries to smoke outdoors sometimes.


Yes, you can get emphysema from secondhand smoke. The risk of this is less than in people who actually smoke themselves, but it can still happen. This is the reason for all of the legislation and publicity in recent years about smoking in public places like restaurants, because many restaurant workers who have worked in the industry their whole lives developed emphysema secondary to inhaling chronically the cigarette smoke produced by their customers.

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Making your husband smoke outside is a good start. However, if he does not do this consistently, it will not help much. Also, it does not completely eliminate the risk, because the cigarette smoke particles that cling to his clothing when he comes back inside can still be potentially inhaled by you and put you at risk. The best thing to do would be to talk to your husband about his potentially quitting smoking. If he has any interest in this, he should talk to his primary care doctor. There are many medications and other social resources that are available to him to help him increase his chances of quitting smoking successfully, and his primary care doctor would be happy to help him through this very important process.

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