Pratley & Partners

The dangers of passive smoking

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Unless you've been living on another planet or in a cave as a hermit, then you are probably aware of what passive smoking is and the dangers associated with it. Second-hand tobacco smoke does not cause damage to the lungs in the short-term but rather it is the long-term effects which can lead to debilitating health issues.

Burning tobacco smoke releases nasty harmful chemicals into the air in much the same way that a building fire will release nasty harmful chemicals as a result of the combustion process. Smoke inhalation from cigarettes and tobacco products can take many years to show up.

However, inhaling smoke from a burning building can do as much damage to a person's lungs in a small amount of time than inhaling secondary tobacco smoke can over a lifetime. It is to be hoped that nobody has to experience the hell that is a burning building, but one thing that most of us can agree on is that the evacuation of smoke before the fire takes hold is a major concern to architects and building designers.

In modern buildings it's not so much a problem because buildings are constructed in a way which fits with modern safety regulations. The problem is in older buildings which were not designed with the same stringent safety precautions in mind.

Natural ventilation and forced ventilation in modern buildings is a consideration for all building designers; most buildings have some kind of roof vents or roof lights which are integral elements of the ventilation system.

In older buildings it may well be that there are roof lights and vents at a high level but these can be difficult to get to for rapid opening in the event of fire or smoke within the building. In the event, smoke inhalation is a real and present danger and can result in very serious injury.

If not treated quickly, damage of the lungs and subsequent breathing issues a very real threat, potentially reducing the potential lifespan of an individual by many years.

One building fire which we are all familiar with is the Grenfell Tower. Most of the people who lost their lives in the inferno died as a result of smoke inhalation and not from injuries that were caused as result of their proximity to flames.

What smoke evacuation systems were in place appeared to not function as they should have, as well as other issues which caused smoke to build up and spread rapidly.

Any building which is a commercial space or a building where many people live has to have suitable venting potential as well as fire inhibitors built in. All buildings should have adequate natural and/or forced ventilation systems in place to dissipate smoke to allow for the rapid evacuation of a building, combined with suitable escape routes of course.

If you have roof lights or vents in the building in which you work, or the building for which you have responsibility for, automatic and manual controls for roof lights and vents should be one of your priorities.

For more information on natural ventilation and smoke ventilation systems, contact our team on


Ultraflex Control Systems
Kingspan STG - Light & Air
Window Master Natural Ventilation
Clearline Window Controls