Tags: secondhand | smoke | deaths

Secondhand Smoke Tied to 42,000 Deaths

Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:45 PM

Secondhand smoke accounts for about 42,000 deaths annually to nonsmokers in the United States, including nearly 900 infants, and costs the nation billions of dollars in lost productivity, according to a new study that suggests the economic and public health costs of passive smoking are far greater than previously believed.
The findings, by University of California-San Francisco researchers, suggest the annual deaths from secondhand smoke represent nearly 600,000 years of potential life lost – an average of 14.2 years per person – and $6.6 billion in lost productivity, amounting to $158,000 per death, the researchers said.
The study, which involved the first use of a biomarker to gauge the physical and economic impacts of cigarette smoke, also found the risks disproportionately affect African Americans, especially black infants.
Researchers said the findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, should prompt renewed public health initiatives to reduce exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
"In general, fewer people are smoking and many have made lifestyle changes, but our research shows that the impacts of secondhand smoke are nonetheless very large,'' said lead researcher Wendy Max, professor of health economics at the UCSF School of Nursing and co-director of the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging.
"The availability of information on biomarker-measured exposure allows us to more accurately assess the impact of secondhand smoke exposure on health and productivity. The impact is particularly great for communities of color.''
Exposure to secondhand smoke has been tied to life-threatening heart and lung disease, as well as conditions affecting newborns such as low birth weight and respiratory distress syndrome.
The new study estimates secondhand smoke causes 34,000 heart disease deaths, more than 7,000 lung cancer deaths and nearly 900 infant mortality cases.
The researchers used serum cotinine – a biomarker which detects the chemical consequences of exposure to tobacco smoke in the bloodstream - to measure exposure to secondhand smoke. That measurement reflects secondhand exposure in all settings, not just home or work, the authors wrote.
Of the total deaths from secondhand smoke, 80 percent were among whites, 13 percent among blacks, and 4 percent among Hispanic. Black babies accounted for up to 36 percent of all infant deaths from secondhand smoke exposure, the researchers reported, although blacks represent only 13 percent of the total U.S. population.
"Our study probably under-estimates the true economic impact of secondhand smoke on mortality,'' said Max. "The toll is substantial, with communities of color having the greatest losses. Interventions need to be designed to reduce the health and economic burden of smoking on smokers and nonsmokers alike, and on particularly vulnerable groups.''

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Secondhand smoke has been tied to 42,000 deaths annually in the United States, including nearly 900 infants.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:45 PM
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