How dangerous is secondhand smoke?
A new survey recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that 58 million people are still exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) in the United States even though the number of smokers has declined.
The report found higher rates of exposure among children, blacks, those living in poverty and those living in rental housing.
“Forty percent of children – including seven in 10 black children – are still exposed shows how much more we have to do to protect everyone from this preventable health hazard,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director in a press release.
Each year SHS causes more than 41,000 deaths in adults including 400 infant deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The U.S. Surgeon General emphasizes that it is a known fact that secondhand smoke causes respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma attacks in infants and children, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Also, the Surgeon General warns that there is no safe level of exposure to SHS.
Additionally, the report found the following key findings:
- Two in every five children aged three to 11 years old are exposed to SHS.
- Nearly half of black nonsmokers are exposed to SHS.
- More than two in five nonsmokers who live below the poverty level are exposed to SHS.
- More than one in three nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to SHS.
“I have seen an increase risk for heart disease, lung cancer and stroke in adults who have been exposed to secondhand smoke. Children have become at greater risk of respiratory infections, asthma attacks, ear infections, tooth decay and chronic cough, while pregnant women are at greater risk for miscarriages, premature birth and low birth weight.”
The report also highlights several reasons SHS exposure has declined including state and local laws that have enforced comprehensive smoke-free areas, increase number of families that have adopted voluntary smoke-free rules at home, and cigarette smoking has declined significantly. Also, smoking around nonsmokers has become less socially acceptable.
There are several steps you can take to help prevent being exposed to secondhand smoke.
“Try as much as possible to not be around people who are smoking and encourage others to quit smoking. You can also talk to your local legislatures about smoke-free zones in your community,” says Dr. Hampton.
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