Monday, February 21, 2011

The Truth about Tobacco and Allergies

This guest post was written by Edward Stern who also writes for distance learning and

Smoking is bad for you. And it is bad for others around you. But can you be allergic to tobacco? To start with, by definition an allergic reaction are the results of your body fighting off something it believes to be harmful such as a disease, even if no such thing is present. Allergies manifest themselves in hives, itching, irritation, redness, more mucus produced, etc. Therefore, if there are people allergic to tobacco, it would mean their bodies find tobacco harmful and are reacting to it.

Whether this actually happens, and why, is still up to much debate. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study does claim that individuals may be allergic to tobacco smoke. These allergies demonstrate themselves through nasal symptoms like runny nose and congestion. Tobacco smoke allergies may also cause headaches and nausea. Children with such allergies are susceptible to ear infection and lung deficiencies, such as a greater risk for asthma. Most of these symptoms are easily treated by over-the-counter medicines and are nothing close to life-threatening.

But that is for tobacco smoke, and "allergies" sound an awful lot like "ashtma." In fact, it is difficult to differentiate between the two, and to decide what exactly constitutes an allergic reaction, and what is causing the allergic reaction. It may not necessarily be the tobacco in tobacco smoke that is causing the adverse reaction -- cigarettes are filled with all kinds of chemicals and carcinogens that very well be the contributing factor to allergic reactions.

Plus, someone saying they are allergic to tobacco can mean a wide variety of things. The actual tobacco leaf? There are people who have commented on various forums and said they have been tested by doctors and found to be allergic to the plant itself. What about smokeless tobacco? I could find no such studies. What about different brands of cigarettes? How well-ventilated an area does a person need to be in to avoid exposure from smokers around them? How serious can these allergies get?

Unfortunately, I could find no such easy answers to any of the above questions. The EPA study says people can be allergic to smoke, but failed to indicate what types of cigarettes were smoked in the studies conducted and what ingredients were present in the cigarettes.

Evidently, more research needs to be done to prove that tobacco causes allergic reactions, and not other chemicals, and what that even means -- is it the tobacco itself, or does some chemical reaction happen after it is burned?

Regardless, claims of tobacco allergy seem to be sufficient for anti-smoking advocates who want to ban smoking from public places, or even in Los Angeles, where the city wants to ban smoking outside of homes. People are allergic, that's enough, and no one really dares to question the veracity of such statements or what they really mean.

I'm not trying to say that tobacco isn't harmful. It is horribly so, especially to others exposed to it who do not smoke themselves. But people need to get their facts straight before passing any kind of legislation that bans personal habits from public places. Tobacco allergies do seem to exist. But until someone knows why these reactions occur, and if it is completely tobacco's fault, that topic needs to stay out of anti-smoking legislation discussion.

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