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June 28, 2006
Second-hand smoke deadly

Twenty years after the first American Surgeon General's report on the dangers of second-hand smoke, its latest report issued today finds that second-hand smoke is even more dangerous than previously thought. The new report, entitled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Second-hand Smoke, confirms that second-hand smoke is responsible for at least 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year in the US.

In Canada, second-hand smoke kills at least 1,100 non-smokers a year. This includes 300 lung cancer deaths and at least 700 deaths from coronary heart disease. This report from the top American public health official underscores the need for comprehensive laws to protect everyone from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Earlier this year, The Lung Association launched a series of consultations to help develop a National Framework on Respiratory Health for Canada. “The fight to protect all Canadians from the danger of tobacco is a cornerstone of the proposed framework,” said Nora Sobolov, President & CEO for The Lung Association.

Facts on second-hand smoke:

  • Second-hand smoke exposure causes serious health problems in children, including higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asthma, lung damage, ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • In one study, only 3 in 10 people reported they'd been exposed to second-hand smoke but 9 in 10 had detectable levels of nicotine in their bodies. (The lab test used measures exposure that has occurred over the last three days.)
  • Second-hand smoke is a major source of indoor air pollution, and the greatest source of air particle pollution.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke.
  • Children are twice as likely to smoke if their parents are smokers.

Currently, five provinces and two territories have already passed strong smoke-free air laws, but the danger of second-hand smoke in the workplace remains a reality for Canadians in Alberta, PEI, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, B.C., and the Yukon. “Canada has signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) but we still have lots of work ahead of us to help prevent diseases and death caused from smoking and second-hand smoke,” added Ms. Sobolov.

“This report highlights the harmful consequences of exposing children to second-hand smoke. We need stronger partnership with all levels of government to develop public awareness campaigns,” said Paul Thomey, VP Tobacco Control for The Lung Association.

The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities. Recognized as a leader in lung health, our mission is to improve and promote lung health through support programs, education, research, and advocacy. Key areas of focus include: outdoor and indoor air quality, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, smoking prevention and cessation, flu, and lung disease management.

More information on second-hand smoke

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Luc Lapointe, Director Public Issues
The Lung Association
(613) 569-6411 ext 223