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Secondhand Smoke Causes Heart Disease and Lung Cancer

Number of Smoke-Free Households Increasing, but Secondhand Smoke Remains a Problem

WASHINGTON, DC -- July 6, 2007 -- By 2003, about 72% of households did not allow smoking indoors, an increase from 43% in 1992-1993, according to a recent report by the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among households with at least one smoker, those that had smoke-free rules increased from 9.6% to 31.8% in that time period. In households with no smokers, the increase was almost 27%--from 56.7% to 83.5%.

The CDC derived these statistics from the Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey. This is a questionnaire added to surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau via telephone and home visits.

Exposure to secondhand smoke at home varied from state to state. During 1992-1993, the percent of households that imposed smoke-free rules ranged from close to 26% in Kentucky to almost 70% in Utah. By 2003, the percent ranged from 53.4% in Kentucky to 88.8% in Utah.

The CDC said that the rise in smoke-free households was due to an underlying decrease in smoking rates among adults and youths as well as changes in knowledge and attitudes about the hazards of smoking. Nevertheless, about 126 million children and nonsmoking adults were still exposed to secondhand smoke from 1999-2002. The agency recommends that smoking be completely eliminated in indoor spaces. Other approaches to the secondhand smoke problem, including ventilation and separating smokers from nonsmokers, are ineffective.

The CDC also notes that "The single best step that persons who smoke can take to protect both the health of family members and their own health is to quit smoking. Effective smoking-cessation interventions are available, including clinical counseling, medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and state telephone quitline (available by dialing 1-800-QUIT NOW.)"

The Perils of Secondhand Smoke

Inhaling secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, serious respiratory infections, middle-ear infections, worsened asthma and slowed lung growth. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The CDC, along with the World Health Organization and the Canadian Public Health Association, issued another report on secondhand smoke. This study looked at exposure to secondhand smoke among students aged 13 to 15 in various countries and territories from 2000-2007 (the Global Youth Tobacco Survey or GYTS). Nearly half of these students who had never smoked were exposed to secondhand smoke at home or in other places.

Students who never smoked, but were exposed to secondhand smoke at home, were 1.4 to 2.1 times more likely to take up smoking than were those who were not exposed to smoke at home. Students exposed to secondhand smoke outside the home were 1.3 to 1.8 times more likely to take up smoking than were those who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.

The report recommended that countries take measures to make all indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free. Educational programs should also be in place to reduce secondhand smoke in the home.

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