Secondhand smoke boosts the risk of chronic sinus problems. Surprised?

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Breathe in, breathe out. With the inhale comes the carcinogens and irritants found in tobacco smoke; with the exhale goes the chances of a healthy nose and sinuses.

In a study released Monday in Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, researchers conclude that 40% of chronic rhinosinusitis (commonly called sinusitis) can be attributed to secondhand smoke. They base their findings on a comparison of nonsmoking patients at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; 306 had the condition, 306 didn’t.


The researchers, of Brock University in Ontario, say the smoke might increase the risk of, or worsen, respiratory infections. Or maybe it screws up the body’s immune response.

Regardless, their conclusion as stated in the abstract of their secondhand-smoke study is blunt: ‘Exposure to [secondhand smoke] is common and significantly independently associated with [chronic rhinosinusitis]. These findings have important clinical and public health implications.’

The study, as have most studies of secondhand smoke, focused on the health effects of being holed up with a smoker or smokers at home, work, in public places (restaurants, bars, casinos, bowling alleys and the like) or at private functions (parties, dinners).

It didn’t address the risk, if any, of passing by a smoker furtively, or boldly, puffing on a cigarette from the specific corner of the sidewalk to which they’ve most recently been relegated. The effects of that exposure are not quite so obvious, as this recent L.A. Times story explains:

Outdoor smoking bansThe research shows that secondhand smoke is unhealthful. But those conclusions are based on smoke-filled indoor environments. The consequences for outdoor settings are less clear.

Here’s more on chronic sinusitis from

-- Tami Dennis