Secondhand Smoke

Research

Kids take in more tobacco smoke in apartments than in houses
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that children who live with nonsmokers are more likely to be exposed to cigarette smoke if they live in apartment buildings than in stand-alone housing. Data from the 2001-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were used to assess secondhand smoke exposure (via blood cotinine level) and housing type among 5,002 6-18 year old children. They found that about 85% of children who lived in apartments had blood cotinine levels that indicated tobacco smoke exposure, compared to 70% of children who lived in houses; there were higher rates of exposure among apartment-dwelling children at every cutoff level of cotinine. The authors suggest that children may be exposed to smoke that seeps through walls or shared ventilation systems, while noting that smoke-free policies that cover multiunit housing may help reduce children’s exposure to tobacco smoke. Click here to read more, or read the study abstract.

Secondhand smoke increases risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children
A new study indicates that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have invasive meningococcal disease than those who are not. Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of thirty case-control and twelve cross-sectional studies that assessed the relationship between secondhand smoke exposure, invasive bacterial disease, and carriage of Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The results showed that children exposed to secondhand smoke were twice as likely to have invasive meningococcal disease, and were 68% and 66% more likely, respectively, to carry N. meningitidis and S. pneumoniae. The authors call for more research to be done to confirm the results and provide more evidence regarding invasive Hib disease and pneumoncoccal disease. Additionally, they state a need for the implementation of interventions that reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Click here to read more, or click here to view the full article in PLoS Medicine.

Moms' smoking in pregnancy tied to girls' puberty
New research shows that daughters born to women who smoked during pregnancy start menstruating three to four months earlier than those born to women who did not smoke during pregnancy. The researchers followed up with a cohort of 1,634 Danish females born between 1984 and 1987 to determine the month and year of menarche (onset of menstruation); their mothers provided information on smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The results showed that compared to the daughters of nonsmokers, the age of menarche was accelerated by 2.8 months among those exposed to ten or more cigarettes per day in utero and by 4.1 months among those whose mothers quit smoking during pregnancy. The findings suggest that heavy exposure to cigarette smoke in the womb may be a prenatal determinant of the age of menarche. While at an individual level this may not be of health concern, there could be health implications at the population level. Click here to read more, or read the study abstract, published in Human Reproduction.

Smoking bans may benefit kids with asthma
A new study has found that asthmatic children living in areas with smoke-free laws may have fewer chronic asthma symptoms than children living in areas not covered by such laws. Researchers examined data from the 1999–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to identify any associations between state and county smoke-free laws and the prevalence, severity, and current symptoms of asthma among 8,800 nonsmoking 3-15 year olds. They found that while there was no difference in asthma prevalence between localities with smoke-free laws and those without, youth with asthma were 33% less likely to have persistent symptoms like wheezing and nighttime coughing if they lived in an area covered by a smoke-free law. There were also decreases in the odds of asthma attacks or emergency room visits associated with smoke-free laws, although these results were not statistically significant. This study adds to the body of research that demonstrates positive health effects related to smoke-free policies, most of which has focused on adults. Click here to read more, or click here to read the study abstract in Pediatrics.

Teens in smoking homes may get more ear infections
Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicates that adolescents living in households with a smoker are more likely to have recurring ear infections than those who do not. Data provided by 90,961 parents of children aged 0–17 years in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health was used to gather information on smoking in the household, past-year ear infections, and sociodemographic status. The results showed that adolescents aged 12-17 who lived with a smoker were 67% more likely to get recurrent ear infections than their peers who lived in smoke-free homes. Additionally, while the proportion of households that have smokers remains steady across each child age group, family members are increasingly more likely to smoke inside the home as the child grows older. The authors suggest that parents and pediatricians do more to create smoke-free environments for children to prevent ear infections and other negative health outcomes. Read more here, or click here for the full article.

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International

Secondhand smoke kills 600,000 a year: WHO study
A new study published in The Lancet estimates that 603,000 deaths per year, or about 1% of deaths worldwide, can be attributed to secondhand smoke exposure. Based on data gathered in 192 countries, the researchers estimated the proportion of people exposed to secondhand smoke, using mathematical models to estimate the number of deaths and DALYs (disability-adjusted life-years, or the number of lost years of healthy life) for nonsmokers. They found that globally, 40% of children, 33% of male nonsmokers, and 35% of female nonsmokers were exposed to secondhand smoke in 2004. This exposure is estimated to cause about 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 deaths from asthma and 21,400 deaths from lung cancer each year. In addition, DALYs lost from exposure totaled 10.9 million, mostly from lower respiratory infections, ischemic heart disease, and asthma. Adult female nonsmokers had the greatest burden of deaths attributed to secondhand smoke (47% of all deaths), while children had the greatest DALY burden (61% of all DALYs). The authors say that these morbidity and mortality figures from secondhand smoke should be added to estimates of disease and death from active smoking to show the full global health burden associated with tobacco. They further recommend that policymakers implement provisions of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure. Click here to read more, or click here to access the full text of the article.

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