People who smoke tobacco are making people around them sick, and in some cases contributing to those peoples' deaths, according to a book-length study by the National Academy of Sciences. Some of the study's conclusions:
If you are married to a tobacco smoker and you don't smoke yourself, your chances of getting lung cancer are increased 34% because of "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) in your home.
"Considering the evidence as a whole, exposure to ETS increases the incidence of lung cancer among nonsmokers," says the Academy.
Pregnant women exposed daily for several hours to ETS have an increased likelihood of producing low birth-weight children; low birth-weight children have a greater likelihood of dying, compared to normal birth-weight children.
Children of parents who smoke, compared to children of parents who do not smoke, show an increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, usually cough, sputum, and wheezing. Bronchitis, pneumonia, and other lower-respiratory infections occur up to twice as often in children less than a year old who have one or more parents who smoke.
In 1980, 32% of adult Americans considered themselves smokers, about half of them male and half of them female. In 1955, half of all men smoked and 25% of women smoked. Since 1964, when the first Surgeon General's report linked cigarettes to lung cancer, more women are smoking and fewer men are smoking; those who do smoke are smoking 10% more cigarettes per day (30 per day vs. 27 per day), perhaps because individual cigarettes are less potent than they used to be.
The current report by the National Academy is a careful review of all previous studies of the human health effects of "environmental tobacco smoke." This report lays to rest the argument that smoking only hurts the smoker; it shows beyond any reasonable doubt that smoking hurts everyone who breathes the air near a smoker. From reading the Academy's study, we conclude: smoking is anti-social behavior and those who do it in the presence of others are guilty of assault or worse.
Get: Barbara Hulka and others, ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE:
MEASURING EXPOSURE AND ASSSESSING HEALTH EFFECTS, (Washington,
DC: National Academy of Sciences [2101 Constitution Ave., NW,
Washington, DC 20418), 1986; 5th printing, 1987. 337 pgs.
$19.95. Phone (202) 3342665.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: tobacco; health; health statistics; disease statistics; studies; findings; national academy of sciences; cancer; lung cancer; developmental disorders; birth defects; respiratory disease; surgeon general; second hand smoke; sidestream smoke; environmental tobacco smoke;