Beware: 10 facts on second-hand smoke

Tobacco use kills more than five million people every year – more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. If current trends continue, tobacco use could kill more than eight million people per year by 2030, and up to one billion people in total in the 21st century.

The WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2009 tracks the tobacco epidemic, giving governments and other stakeholders the information they need to tailor their interventions.

This year, the report focuses on smoke-free environments. Second-hand smoke accounts for one in 10 tobacco-related deaths. Creating 100% smoke-free environments is the only way to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke

10 facts on second-hand smoke

1. Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water pipes. Everyone is exposed to its harmful effects.

2. Guidelines to Article 8 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control state that there is “no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke”. Creating 100% smoke-free environments is the only way to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.

3. Second-hand smoke causes 600 000 premature deaths per year. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

4. In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.

5. Separate or ventilated smoking areas do not protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke can spread from a smoking area to a non-smoking area, even if the doors between the two areas are closed and even if ventilation is provided. Only 100% smoke-free environments provide effective protection.

6. About 40% of all children are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke at home. Thirty-one per cent of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke occur in children.

7. Youths exposed to second-hand smoke at home are one-and-a-half to two times more likely to start smoking than those not exposed.

8. Ten per cent of the economic costs related to tobacco use are attributable to second-hand smoke. Tobacco use imposes both direct economic costs on society, such as those associated with treating tobacco-related diseases and indirect costs, such as those associated with reduced productivity or lost wages because of death or illness.

9. More than 94% of people are unprotected by smoke-free laws. However, in 2008 the number of people protected from second-hand smoke by such laws increased by 74% to 362 million from 208 million in 2007. Of the 100 most populous cities, 22 are smoke-free.

10. Through the tobacco control package called MPOWER, WHO helps countries to implement the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to protect people from second-hand smoke.

Source of information

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