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Dangers of Second Hand Smoke

The majority of people in understand that smoking is dangerous to a person’s health and causes many illness and even death. What has been more recently understood is that exposure to secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke or ETS) also causes many of the same health problems.

The 2006 Report of the Surgeon General on the “Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke” came to the conclusion that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS). While SHS may not appear to pose problems for some people in the short term, long-term exposure can lead to major health concerns. Other individuals may have immediate severe reactions to SHS.

You can download the 2006 Surgeon General’s report and all of the previous reports on tobacco that have been published since 1964 at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2006/index.htm

There are more than 4,000 chemicals in SHS. Many of these chemicals are toxic and some cause cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and other health problems. 

Children are at a particularly high risk for health problems related to SHS.  Babies are hurt by SHS before and after birth. SHS is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies whose mothers are around secondhand smoke are more likely to have lower birth weights and can have more health problems than babies whose mothers were not exposed to SHS. Older children whose parents smoke get sick more often than children who are not exposed to SHS. They get more bronchitis and pneumonia and SHS can trigger an asthma attack in a child. More than 40 percent of children who go to the emergency room for asthma live with smokers. Children exposed to SHS get more ear infections and they are more likely to have fluid in their ears and have more operations to put in ear tubes for drainage.

What Can Parents Do? 

  • Do not allow anyone to smoke near your child.

  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car.  Opening a window does not protect your children from smoke.

  • Use a smoke-free day care center.

  • Do not take your child to restaurants or other indoor public places that allow smoking.

  • Teach older kids to stay away from secondhand smoke.

The new law that Ohioans passed in November 2006 will help reduce the health problems that secondhand smoke can cause.  With everyone’s help,  will have healthier citizens and spend less on healthcare.