New data on the global burden of disease caused by exposure to second hand smoke (see report) adds to the urgency for action to prevent cancer heart disease asthma and other conditions caused by this exposure (Oberg M, Jaakkola MS et al. 2010). As noted in media coverage of the new findings, worldwide exposure to second had smoke is substantial – approximately 40 percent of children are exposed. Together, this exposure in children and adults caused 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 from asthma and 21,400 from lung cancer.
Exceptionally strong evidence shows that reducing exposure to second hand smoke reduces the risk of acute myocardial infarction (Lightwood and Glantz 2009; Meyers, Neuberger et al. 2009; Mackay, Irfan et al. 2010). Strong data from Scotland shows a marked decline in hospitalizations due to asthma among children following the passage of smoke free legislation in 2006, which banned smoking in public places (Mackay, Haw et al. 2010).
It is time we followed the evidence and implemented policies that support public health throughout the world. Implementing the US tobacco control strategy would be a useful first step locally. International efforts must also address the large and preventable cause of premature morbidity and mortality.
Lightwood, J. M. and S. A. Glantz (2009). “Declines in acute myocardial infarction after smoke-free laws and individual risk attributable to secondhand smoke.” Circulation 120(14): 1373-1379.
Mackay, D., S. Haw, et al. (2010). “Smoke-free legislation and hospitalizations for childhood asthma.” N Engl J Med 363(12): 1139-1145.
Mackay, D. F., M. O. Irfan, et al. (2010). “Meta-analysis of the effect of comprehensive smoke-free legislation on acute coronary events.” Heart 96(19): 1525-1530.
Meyers, D. G., J. S. Neuberger, et al. (2009). “Cardiovascular effect of bans on smoking in public places: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” J Am Coll Cardiol 54(14): 1249-1255.