All Secondhand Smoke Exposure Dangerous
June 29, 2006 -- There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 percent to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 percent to 30 percent. Nearly half of all nonsmoking Americans are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
Exposure to secondhand smoke also causes of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma attacks in infants and children, according to the report.
Fulfilling the Potential of Cancer Prevention and Early Detection, a 2003 report from the Institute of Medicine, concludes that to save the most lives from cancer, health care providers, insurers, employers, policymakers, and researchers should concentrate their resources on helping people to stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight and diet, exercise regularly, control alcohol consumption, and get screened for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer.
In addition, Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction (2001) examined modified tobacco products designed to reduce the health risks of smoking and found that these items cannot yet be proved to reduce tobacco-related disease. The report outlines how tried-and-true public health tools -- research, surveillance, communication, and regulation -- should be used to ensure that the availability of these products confers less risk to the individual and to the population as a whole compared with conventional tobacco products. It recommends a regulatory strategy to prevent cigarettes with greater toxicity than those sold today from entering the market and to gather complete information about new harm reduction products.