Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure has reduced considerably in the past decade. In 1999 through 2000, 72 percent of people were exposed to secondhand smoke compared to 43 percent in 2011 through 2012. Despite the gains, the problem continues to disparagingly affect several groups of people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 58 million, or 1 in 4 Americans, are still exposed to secondhand smoke. 40 million children, including 7 out of 10 black children, are exposed to SHS. Nearly half of black nonsmokers are affected by SHS. Those who live in multi-unit rentals, about 80 million Americans, may be exposed to SHS through the dispersal of smoke from other units, affecting vulnerable children and elders.
Comprehensible smoke-free laws enacted in 26 states are credited with helping to reduce exposure to nonsmokers. The laws are currently protecting half of the American population by prohibiting smoking at worksites, in restaurants and bars. In addition, successful anti-smoking campaigns have brought down smoking rates considerably.
Every year, secondhand smoke kills approximately 41,000 nonsmokers due to lung cancer and heart disease, and 400 children due to smoke related Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Second hand smoke can also cause respiratory infections and asthma in children. While these numbers are considerably reduced from even a few years ago, secondhand smoke is still a deadly concern. Continuing to educate people about the risks associated with SHS, along with urging lawmakers to create stronger anti-smoking legislation is our best hope for eliminating this awful and unnecessary problem.
Julian Omidi is an advocate for the health and wellbeing of others. He, along with his brother, Michael Omidi, and mother, Cindy Omidi, is the co-founder of numerous philanthropic endeavors such as No More Poverty and Civic Duty.