Archived Story

Secondhand smoke truly harmful to children

Published 9:58am Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I was surprised to see the Nov. 24 letter, “Secondhand smoke danger is a myth,” which published in the Mobile Press-Register.
I am a pediatrician, so I don’t have to deal with lung cancer except when one of my little patients loses a grandparent to the disease. I spent two days searching the Internet for studies on the causes of lung cancer. This is what I found.
The primary risk factor for lung cancer is cigarette smoking, which is estimated to account for 90 percent of all lung cancers.
An analysis of 52 studies on secondhand smoke and cancer showed a risk of 1:21 in spouses of smokers. Twenty-five studies of workplace exposure showed a risk of 1:22.
For nonsmokers exposed to a parent who smoked, the risk of lung cancer was 1:11. In one study it was estimated that 17 percent of lung cancer in nonsmokers is attributed to secondhand smoke during childhood.
Recently, I saw a 4-year-old who had been to the emergency room four times recently. His mother seemed surprised when I suggested that her smoking could be a major contributing factor.
My patients who live with a smoker are more likely to have ear infections, pneumonia, asthma and severe respiratory infections. And, sadly, the child of a smoker is more likely to become addicted to nicotine in early adolescence.

Marsha Raulerson, M.D.

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