In an article in BBC World News on Health - plus considerable media coverage - it has been reported that the effects of passive smoking is causing 600 000 deaths every year. This is shocking news and of course children are particularly at risk from the effects of passive smoking in their own homes.
The BBC article
goes on to report:“One-third of those killed are children, often exposed to smoke at home, the World Health Organization (WHO) found. The study, in 192 countries, found that passive smoking is particularly dangerous for children, said to be at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia and asthma.
Passive smoking causes heart disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer
"This helps us understand the real toll of tobacco,
" said Armando Peruga, of the WHO's Tobacco-Free Initiative, who led the study.
The global health body said it was particularly concerned about the 165,000 children who die of smoke-related respiratory infections, mostly in South East Asia and in Africa. It said that this group was more exposed to passive smoking than any other group, principally in their own homes.
"The mix of infectious diseases and second-hand smoke is a deadly combination,
" Mr Peruga said.
As well as being at increased risk of a series of respiratory conditions, the lungs of children who breathe in passive smoke may also develop more slowly than children who grow up in smoke-free homes.
How widespread is the danger of second hand smoke?
Worldwide, 40% of children, 33% of non-smoking men and 35% non-smoking women were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004, researchers found. This exposure was estimated to have caused 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 from asthma and 21,400 from lung cancer.
According to the study, the highest numbers of people exposed to second-hand smoke are in Europe and Asia and the lowest rates of exposure were in the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa.
The research also revealed that passive smoking had a large impact on women, killing about 281,000 worldwide. This is due to the fact that in many parts of the world, the study suggests, women are at least 50% more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke than men.
The Mail online gives more information about the effects of passive smoking on children where in Africa, an estimated 43,375 children but only 9,514 adults were killed by inhaling secondhand smoke. This compared with 71 child deaths and 35,388 deaths among adults in the high-income countries of Europe.
'Worldwide, children are more heavily exposed to secondhand smoke than any other age group, and they are not able to avoid the main source of exposure - mainly their close relatives who smoke at home,
' the researchers of the WHO study wrote.
In 2004, only 7.4 per cent of the world's population live in jurisdictions with smoke-free laws. Obviously this figure could have improved by 2010 but even so, there would plenty of room for improvement.
The bottom line is that children are the group that has the strongest evidence of harm attributable to secondhand smoke. Public health messages and policy makers need to take urgent note of this and take action accordingly.
Are you still smoking in front of others or do you know someone who does? Time for everyone to realize the dangers once and for all.