BETHESDA, MdA new report from the California state government
links secondhand smoke to a number of diseases, including lung and
nasal-sinus cancers, heart disease, and sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS). The National Cancer Institute has taken the lead in
distributing the 430-page document nationwide.
NCI calls the monograph, Health Effects of Exposure to Environmental
Tobacco Smoke, the most comprehensive report on the health
risks of secondhand smoke ever conducted. It was prepared by
the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).
In a preface to the report, US Surgeon General David Satcher, MD,
PhD, writes that the health effects it documents more than justify
the efforts throughout the nation to create smoke-free workplaces and
public areas. Carol Browner, administrator of the US Environmental
Protection Agency, said it confirms what most Americans already
knowcigarettes not only pose grave health risks to the smoker,
they also threaten the health of anyone who is even near a lighted
cigarette, especially children.
The Cal/EPA monograph includes 18 epidemiologic studies that link
environmental tobacco smoke to disease in children and adults. In
addition to reconfirming reports by the US Surgeon General in 1986
and the EPA in 1992 that environmental tobacco smoke causes lung
cancer, the Cal/EPA report estimates that between 35,000 and 62,000
Americans die each year from coronary heart disease as a result of
exposure to secondhand smoke.
The weight of scientific evidence is now more than sufficient
to conclude that the relationship between environmental tobacco smoke
and heart disease is real, Dr. Satcher said.
Added Lynn Smaha, MD, president of the American Heart Association,
This is strong support of what is so often disputed by the
tobacco industry: that environmental tobacco smoke can lead to the
biggest killers in our country.
The monograph also linked exposure to secondhand smoke to increased
morbidity and mortality in children. The report cited associations
between environmental tobacco smoke and an increased risk of SIDS,
middle ear infections, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Numerous studies have clearly demonstrated an increased risk of
SIDS in infants of mothers who smoke during pregnancy, the NCI
said. Some epidemiologic studies now have determined that
postnatal environmental tobacco smoke exposure may be an independent
risk factor for SIDS.
The report noted that in 1986, only 3% of the nations employees
worked in a smoke-free environment. That figure stood at 64% in 1996.
One study done in California found a significant improvement in
respiratory symptoms among bartenders only 6 weeks after the state
implemented a law banning smoking in bars.
When the thousands of environmental tobacco smoke-related lung
cancers and other diseases are considered, environmental tobacco
smoke clearly is a major cause of death in the United States,
said Donald Shopland, coordinator of NCIs smoking and tobacco
A copy of the monograph can be obtained by calling 1-800-4-CANCER or
visiting the NCI website at http://rex.nci.nih.gov/NCI_MONOGRAPHS/INDEX.HTM.