New CDC Report Shows Large Numbers of Non-Smoking US Children are Exposed to Tobacco Pollution

More than 1/3 of US children ages 3-17 are exposed to secondhand smoke, the precursor of thirdhand smoke. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke inside homes or cars are also exposed to thirdhand smoke, the toxic residue that remains in indoor environments where tobacco has been smoked.  

By: Gaby Galvin 
Date: August 15, 2019 

MORE THAN A THIRD OF  kids are exposed to secondhand smoke in the U.S. and many don’t even live with smokers, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates. 

Since the turn of the century, the number of people in the U.S. exposed to secondhand smoke has been cut by millions as laws barring smoking in bars, restaurants, workplaces and other public places have been enacted in many states and localities. 

“Decreases in tobacco smoking, awareness of (secondhand smoke) health risks, and smoke-free policies may have contributed to a reduction in … exposure since the late 1980s,” researchers said. 
But progress overall has stalled in recent years, and the new report notes the share of youth exposed to secondhand smoke has “remained steady” – and that exposure holds potentially serious health consequences for children. 

Between 2013 and 2016, 35.4% of 3- to 17-year-olds were exposed to secondhand smoke from tobacco products like cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cigars, according to the CDC. Researchers assessed the amount of cotinine – a chemical that forms after nicotine enters the body – in the blood of more than 4,500 children and youth to determine secondhand smoke exposure overall in the U.S., and excluded young people who had recently used tobacco from the analysis. 

How likely kids were to be exposed to secondhand smoke varied with their race, family income, age and whether a smoker lived in their house. Among black children and teens, for example, 61.8% were exposed to secondhand smoke, compared with 34.3% of white kids, 24.9% of Hispanic kids and 18.3% of Asian kids. 

More than half of kids whose family income was below the federal poverty line were exposed to secondhand smoke, while that rate was just 16% for those at or above 400% of the poverty level – $97,200 for a family of four in 2016. 

Racial Disparities in Secondhand Smoke Exposure 
% of youth ages 3 to 17 exposed to secondhand smoke, 2013-2016 

“The percentage of secondhand smoke-exposed youth decreased with increasing family income levels, and increased with the number of tobacco smokers living in their homes,” researchers said. 

Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to serious health repercussions for children, including severe asthma attacks and other respiratory issues, slowed lung growth, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome. 

The share of young people exposed to secondhand smoke was more than three times as high among those who lived with two or more smokers as those who didn’t live with a smoker, the report found. Yet nearly a quarter of children who didn’t live with a smoker still were exposed to secondhand smoke. 

Kids between 3 and 11 years old also were more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than those between 12 and 17. 

“Exposure may occur in many places, including at home or at a friend’s or relative’s home, or in vehicles, restaurants, parks, or playgrounds,” researchers noted. “Programs and practices that restrict smoking in public and private spaces and declines in tobacco use help to limit youth exposure.” 


Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Click here to read the original research article.

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