Almost half of all non-smoking teens are affected by secondhand smoke, thus facing numerous health risks at the hands of others, researchers have recently determined.
The findings, featured in the online version of the journal Pediatrics, posted on Monday, January 11, originated from a study led by Brian King, at the Office on Smoking and Health, affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Experts reviewed data collected in 2013, pertaining to 18,000 middle school and high school kids, from grade 6 until grade 12, in order to see how many of the subjects had been exposed to tobacco smoke, during the course of a week.
They discovered that as many as 48% of the teens who had never used cigarettes had breathed in tobacco-filled smoke, in various circumstances. Even more strikingly, around a quarter declared that such exposure had occurred on a daily basis, either on public land or on private property.
More precisely, 16% of the adolescents revealed that they were forced to cope with such fumes at their family home, while 15% recounted that they were in the presence of someone who smoked as they traveled by car.
In addition, 17% revealed that they had to breathe in secondhand smoke while at school, 35% mentioned that the exposure took place in public areas (either outdoor or indoor) while 27% said that they were turned into passive smokers at work.
It was also determined that the risk of inhaling such toxic vapors was around 9 times more elevated among adolescents whose families had established no restrictions regarding smoking at home or in their personal vehicles, than among kids whose parents had instituted such rules.
The fact that secondhand smoke exposure among kids is so elevated is rather alarming, given the detrimental effect of such fumes on overall health and well-being, even at low concentrations.
Namely, indirect contact with tobacco has been linked with sudden infant death syndrome (affecting apparently healthy babies under the age of one), respiratory issues (pneumonia, bronchitis), breathing trouble (asthma, impaired lung function), middle ear infections (otitis) etc.
Moreover, among adults, such exposure has also been proven to be a contributing factor to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, 26 states across the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, have introduced legislation through which smoking is strictly forbidden in offices, indoor public areas, bars, restaurants etc.
The rest of the country however is lagging behind, with excessively few measures taken to turn public buildings in smoke-free areas. As study authors point out, it’s precisely in these regions that adolescents are the most vulnerable to secondhand smoking.
At the moment, around 18% of the population of the United States resorts to cigarettes, and while the popularity of this habit has suffered a decline, the number of smokers is still considered excessively high.
As a result, health officials believe that more campaigns should be organized in order to remove the glamorous aura that is sometimes awarded to cigarettes, and discourage people from turning to these toxic sticks.
In addition, efforts should be taken to raise even greater awareness among active smokers regarding the dangers of this destructive pleasure, and more support should be offered to those having trouble escaping the throes of nicotine addiction.
Moreover, even at an individual level greater consideration for non-smokers should be shown, especially when the ones that are exposed to tobacco are children and adolescents.
Those in this age group suffer the most severe consequences after inhaling the thousands of chemicals present in this deadly mix, which is why smoking bans should be even more carefully followed in their presence.
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