Breastfeeding vs. Smoking: Effect on Bystanders
Recently a DJ from an Orlando, FL radio station interviewed a midwife about nursing in public. The DJ would prefer that women not nurse in public, and his questions to the midwife were very anti-breastfeeding in nature. At one point he said something to the effect of, “well if women are allowed to breastfeed anywhere, then smokers should be allowed to smoke anywhere they want.”
Today’s piece is part of a collaborative effort that seeks to demonstrate why smoking in public is not an appropriate analogy for nursing in public (N.I.P.). Please visit the other writers’ sites to learn more. The schedule of posts is as follows:
- Monday, July 19: Lauren at Hobo Mama gives suggestions on how to deal with either smoking in public or N.I.P.
- Tuesday, July 20: Annie at PhD in Parenting writes about the public health aspects of smoking and breastfeeding.
- Wednesday, July 21: Dionna at Code Name: Mama compares legislation on both smoking and breastfeeding.
- Thursday, July 22: Paige at Baby Dust Diaries discusses the effect on bystanders of smoking versus breastfeeding.
- Friday, July 23: Our posts will be posted as a whole at NursingFreedom.org, where they serve as a complete resource anytime smoking in public is compared to nursing in public.
We’ve seen this week how to deal with smoking and nursing in public, the cost we all pay for smoking vs. the savings of breastfeeding, and how legislation protects breastfeeding while limiting smoking rights. Today, I’d like to look at the actual effect of “exposure” to smoking in public vs. nursing in public.
2nd Hand Smoke
You are sitting in your local eatery and a person at the table next to you lights a cigarette. What’s the big deal, right? This is a free country after all (assuming smoking is legal in said eatery). Is there a real, tangible risk to you?
According to the National Cancer Institute yes.
1. There are more than 4,000 chemicals found in that secondhand smoke wafting over to your table including:
- arsenic (a heavy metal toxin)
- benzene (a chemical found in gasoline)
- beryllium (a toxic metal)
- cadmium (a metal used in batteries)
- chromium (a metallic element)
- ethylene oxide (a chemical used to sterilize medical devices)
- nickel (a metallic element)
- polonium–210 (a chemical element that gives off radiation)
- vinyl chloride (a toxic substance used in plastics manufacture)
2. There are immediate effects on your body due to your co-diner’s decision to light a cigarette including;
- Eye irritation
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in breathing in those already suffering from asthma
Additionally, tobacco smoke exposure has immediate and substantial effects on blood vessels in a way that increases the risk of a heart attack, particularly in people already at risk1. Exposure to tobacco smoke for 30 minutes significantly reduces coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy nonsmokers2.
3. There are long-term risks associated with secondhand smoke;
- Approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke3
- In the United States, secondhand smoke is thought to cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths each year4
- Secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer, nasal sinus cavity cancer, and nasopharyngeal cancer in adults, and leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors in children5
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma
4. Your Caesar salad will taste like smoke.
2nd Hand Breastfeeding
You are sitting in your local eatery and a woman at the table next to you begins to nurse her child. Without a cover. What’s the big deal, right? This is a free country after all. Is there a real, tangible risk to you?
In my opinion, yes there is a risk to you.
1. You run the risk of seeing a human female breast being used in a manner that is not sexual and not serving the purpose of selling a product. You might be forced to question the objectification of women in our culture.
2. You run the risk of seeing the natural and standard form of feeding an infant. You may have to feel strong emotions about your decisions (or someone close to you) to feed your child formula.
3. You may run the risk of having your young child ask “what is that lady doing?” and you just might have to explain the biological purpose of breasts. Perhaps you can talk about what makes mammals unique or how breastmilk contains very healthy protective ingredients for the baby (the opposite effect, in fact of the previous smoke rings).
4. You might have your own personal boundaries of decency crossed. You may be offended. You run the risk of being faced with respecting the diversity of thought in our culture and learning to practice tolerance.
4. However, in all but the most extreme and unusual cases, I can assure you your Caesar salad will not taste like breastmilk.
- Barnoya J, Glantz SA (2005). “Cardiovascular effects of secondhand smoke: nearly as large as smoking”. Circulation 111 (20): 2684–98. ↩
- Otsuka R, Watanabe H, Hirata K, et al. (2001). “Acute effects of passive smoking on the coronary circulation in healthy young adults”. JAMA 286 (4): 436–41. ↩
- National Cancer Institute. Cancer Progress Report 2003. Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004. ↩
- California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant: Part B Health Effects, 2005. ↩
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006. ↩