Mar. 21 2001
Washington, DC — A survey released today by the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health contains dramatic evidence that laws promoting clean indoor air are working. Non-smoking Americans are currently less exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) than ever before. The survey shows that cotinine, a breakdown product of nicotine, has fallen 75 percent in the past decade in the blood of non-smoking adults.
Although the news from the CDC is good overall, there is cause for concern in today's survey results. The levels of exposure of Americans, especially children and teenagers, to second-hand smoke are still unacceptably high. According to the CDC data, those between the ages of 3 and 19 had higher levels of cotinine than those, 20 years and older, and their decreases were less between 1991 and 2000. These statistics graphically illustrate the dangers of parental smoking around children, as well as the need for more laws to protect children from the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke.
The dangers of second-hand smoke are well documented. Environmental tobacco smoke is responsible for 3000 cancer deaths each year as well as 62,000 deaths from coronary artery disease. In addition, ETS is known to cause serious respiratory problems in children, such as greater severity of asthma attacks and lower respiratory infections, according to the CDC.
The CDC survey demonstrates the effectiveness of laws prohibiting smoking in the workplace, in restaurants and other public areas. Despite the best efforts of the tobacco industry and its allies to derail federal, state and local smoking restrictions, the new survey shows conclusively that public health has been served and enhanced by cleaner indoor air and reductions in smoking rates.
Efforts to expand smoke-free areas need to continue and intensify. Although many states and local communities have implemented clean indoor air laws, many more have not yet acted on this critical public health need. The CDC survey should serve as a wakeup call for communities across the country to pass and strengthen laws restricting smoking in public places. The benefits of a smoke-free environment, especially where they impact the health of America's children, are much too important to disregard.