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California Report Documents Dangers Beyond Cancer of Secondhand Smoke

California Report Documents Dangers Beyond Cancer of Secondhand Smoke

BETHESDA, Md—A 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 know—cigarettes 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 nation’s 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 NCI’s smoking and tobacco control program.

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.

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