International Health News

Passive smoking kills

LONDON, ENGLAND. Exposure to other people's tobacco smoke is a potent cause of lung cancer. This is the conclusion of a major study just completed by scientists at the Royal London School of Medicine. The scientists reviewed 37 published epidemiological studies dealing with the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers living with a smoker. The overall conclusion is that a woman who lives with a man who smokes increases her risk of developing lung cancer by 26 per cent. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked by the husband (88 per cent if he smokes 30 a day) and with increasing exposure time (35 per cent for 30 years of exposure). These findings are supported by the fact that carcinogens specific to tobacco are found in the blood and urine of non-smokers exposed to passive smoking. Other researchers have found that exposure to secondhand smoke results in a 23 per cent increase in the risk of developing ischemic heart disease (angina). Ronald Davis of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit in an accompanying editorial concludes that passive smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of premature death in the United States. He estimates that exposure to other people's smoke causes 3,000 deaths from lung cancer every year, 35,000 to 62,000 deaths from heart disease and 150,000 to 300,000 cases of bronchitis or pneumonia in children aged 18 months or younger. Passive smoking has also been linked to the development of asthma in children (8,000 to 26,000 new cases every year), exacerbation of asthma in up to a million children, middle ear infections in children, low birth weight, and thousands of sudden infant deaths. These figures are for passive smoking only. Other research has clearly shown that men who smoke cigarettes have a 19 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than do men who never smoked.
Hackshaw, A.K., et al. The accumulated evidence on lung cancer and environmental tobacco smoke. British Medical Journal, Vol. 315, October 18, 1997, pp. 980-88
Davis, Ronald M. Passive smoking: history repeats itself. British Medical Journal, Vol. 315, October 18, 1997, pp. 961-62 (editorial)

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