Over 58 million people in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke even though the trend in smoking is decreasing, according to new information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released this afternoon.
“Secondhand smoke can kill. Too many Americans, and especially too many American children, are still exposed to it,” stated Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC. “That 40 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.”
Although there has been a decline in smoking due to almost 700 cities in 26 states passing smoke-free laws against smoking in various types of public locations, SHS remains high.
“These state and local laws currently cover almost half the US population,” the CDC reports. “A growing number of households have adopted voluntary smoke-free home rules, increasing from 43 percent in 1992-1993 to 83 percent in 2010-2011. Also, cigarette smoking has declined significantly in the last two decades and smoking around nonsmokers has become much less socially acceptable.”
SHS contains over 7,000 chemicals including about 70 that can cause cancer. The Surgeon General and medical science has shown that SHS can cause:
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Respiratory infections
- Ear infections
- Asthma attacks in infants and children
- Heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adult nonsmokers.
“Each year exposure to SHS causes more than 41,000 deaths from lung cancer and heart disease among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as about $5.6 billion annually in lost productivity,” CDC reports.
“No family should ever get sick because of where they live,” form San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said about the recent finding that one in four nonsmokers remain exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) in America. “This report shines an important light on the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.”
Ensuring that every American lives in a community that helps rather than harms them must be a national priority,” continued Castro, now Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
CDC figures show that SHS exposure in the US has decreased by half between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, but 58 million people are still exposed.
Recently the decrease trends have slowed according to information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Contact with SHS was declining, but lately at a lower rate, with exposure remaining higher among children, blacks, those who live in poverty, and those who live in rental housing. The data shows that two in every five children aged three to 11 years are still exposed to SHS.
The CDC says the “study assessed exposure using cotinine, a marker of SHS found in the blood.”
Additional key findings in the CDC Vital Signs report include that:
- Nearly half of black nonsmokers are exposed to SHS, including seven in 10 black children.
- 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.
“About 80 million Americans live in multiunit housing, where secondhand smoke can seep into smoke-free units and shared areas from units where smoking occurs,” said Brian King, PhD. and Acting Deputy Director for Research Translation, Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “The potential of exposure in subsidized housing is especially concerning because many of the residents — including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities — are particularly sensitive to the effects of secondhand smoke.”