Deaths From Second-Hand Smoke Declining, But Still Alarming for Safety of Children, Families

One person dies for every 52 smokers due to the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, indicate the findings of a new study.

According to researchers from the Netherlands, fewer people are dying due to health problems caused by secondhand smoke, but the number of deaths is still far too high. Their findings were published March 17, in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and most are toxic, with roughly 70 known to cause cancer. The World Health Organization estimates there are 1 billion individuals who smoke worldwide, contributing to nearly 1 million secondhand smoke related deaths each year.

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Researchers studied the worldwide mortality rate attributed to secondhand tobacco  smoke exposure by conducting a cross-sectional epidemiological assessment. The researchers used Our World in Data information, which includes data from the World Health Organization, the Global Burden of Disease Reports, International Mortality and Smoking Statistics and other data sources.

The study looked at data on the number of smokers who have smoked for an average of 24 years. They then compared that number with premature deaths from secondhand smoke exposure over from 1990 to 2016. This “secondhand smoke index” was calculated for North America, South Asia, Middle East and North Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to their findings, in 1990, there was one premature death from secondhand smoke for every 31 people who smoked. By 2016, that number improved to one premature death per every 52 smokers.

Researchers also noted there was wide regional variation in the 2016 index with 42 smokers leading to one death in the Middle East and North Africa and 85 smokers leading to one death in North America.

The researchers report that while the number of secondhand smoke-related deaths have declined, those deaths still continue, and often include children and smokers’ loved ones.

Prior research has linked secondhand smoke exposure to sudden infant death, increased ear infections and asthma attacks in children.

While the harmful effects of secondhand smoke have been known for years, the full impact on deaths globally were unknown, the researchers said, calling for local governments to use the data to pass more stringent anti-tobacco regulations.

“This information may help local policy makers implement measures to better protect those who do not smoke and increase public engagement,” the study authors wrote.


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