Letters to the editor

Second-hand smoke

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

Currently, about 9 million to 12 million young children in America are regularly exposed to their parents' cigarette smoke at home, called "second-hand smoke," or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). ETS contains over 4,000 poisonous chemicals and has been classified as a "Group A" carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans.

Children who breathe second-hand smoke in their home are at a much higher risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis than children who live in a smoke-free environment. Each year second-hand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations. In addition, 5.4 million children suffer from non-fatal asthma and ear infections due to ETS.

Second-hand smoke does not only affect children. Each year, second-hand smoke kills an estimated 3,000 adult non-smokers from lung cancer and is the third leading cause of death in America, behind active smoking and alcohol abuse.

Second-hand smoke is serious. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated Oct. 1-7 as Second Hand Smoke and Children Health Action Week. We urge community members to take a smoke-free pledge to keep your home smoke-free and learn more about second-hand smoke and the effects if may be having on your children, family and friends. For more information, visit http://montana.edu/wwwcxair/October%20smoke.htm or contact SEARHC Health Promotion at 3200 Hospital Drive, Juneau, AK, 99801 or e-mail kdcanon@hotmail.com.

Katie Day

Southeast Alaska Regional

Health Consortium

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