More than two thirds of UK smokers have pets and almost a third of them don’t believe or don’t know that their habit could be having a devastating effect on their animal’s health.
According to studies, pets that live with smokers can develop a range of health problems, from cancers to breathing difficulties, skin infections and eye problems.
Researchers at Glasgow University found that pets who inhale their owners’ second-hand and third- hand smoke develop a host of health problems just like humans who inhale someone else’s smoke.
In fact pets could be at greater risk of health problems because they are more likely to inhale third-hand smoke particles from many different surfaces in the home.
Around 7.4 million people in the UK still smoke cigarettes, but this lack of knowledge could be causing harm to and slowly killing their beloved animals.
An exclusive survey from Change Incorporated found that 70% of UK smoker agreed that vets or breeders should provide more information about the dangers of smoking on pets.
For the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)’s campaign urging smokers to stop lighting up around their pets, Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan commented: “Our vets and nurses regularly see the devastating impact smoking can have on pets. Many owners are unaware of the risks that smoking can have on pets' health. If they knew, I'm sure they would want to protect them.”
All pets are at risk of passive smoke when they are in the same room as smokers, but they are also vulnerable to its effects when the smoker is absent.
Almost 85% of tobacco smoke is invisible and toxic particles from smoke can build up on surfaces and clothes, so while smoking outdoors or having good ventilation can help reduce the amount of smoke that pets are exposed to, potentially carcinogenic particles are still likely to remain on a smoker’s clothes, furniture and soft furnishings.
Cats are particularly at risk because their regular self-grooming exposes them to smoke toxins left on their fur.
In the research published by Glasgow University Professor Clare Knotterbelt commented: “Pets are often in close proximity to their owners more so than many children who can be away at school all day and more so than other adults in the house.
"Furthermore, as pets self-groom they will ingest the smoke particles from their fur – this is a big problem for cats as they are very fastidious and thorough about their self- grooming.”
Even fish have been found to be affected by passive smoking, as the poisons present in tobacco smoke are highly water-soluble. When substances from cigarettes like airborne nicotine, carbon monoxide, arsenic and hydrogen cyanide come into contact with the surface of your pet goldfish’s aquarium, some of them dissolve – and effectively poison – the water.
It only takes a very small amount of poison to cause serious harm to something as small as a fish.
Films and articles at www.changeincorporated.com explore the science and sociological aspects of smoking to encourage debate and provide support for people wanting to quit the habit. The new channel includes articles such as Your Pet Hates Your Smoking, What Does Passive Smoking Do To Smaller Animals and even First Aid For Pets Of Smokers.
As Professor Knottenbelt from Glasgow University commented: “We are all aware of the risks to our health and it is important we do everything we can to encourage people to stop smoking. As well as the risk to the smoker, there is the danger of secondhand smoke to others.
"Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets. While you can reduce the amount of smoke your pet is exposed to by smoking outdoors and by reducing the number of tobacco products smoked by the members of the household, stopping smoking completely is the best option for your pet’s future health and wellbeing."