Thursday, December 2, 2010

Second-hand Smoke Kills 160,000 Children Each Year

Second-hand Smoke Kills 160,000 Children Each Year

25/11/2010 - According to a new report authored by the World Health Organization and published in The Lancet, 27.5% of the victims of second-hand smoke are children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that 165,000 of the world’s children die from passive smoking. In other words, children make up 27.5% of 600,000 the people that die of passive smoking (second-hand smoke) around the world every year.

The data for the report, authored mostly by academics from the WHO’s Geneva-based Tobacco Free Initiative, came from a global poll in 192 countries. Its findings were published in famed international medical journal, The Lancet.

More specifically, deaths related to second-hand smoke are due to heart disease, cancer, lung infections, asthma and other diseases. These causes of death aren’t so different from those that lead to the deaths of 5.1 million smokers – making smoking-related diseases the world’s leading preventable illnesses.

“Together, tobacco smoke and infections lead to substantial, avoidable mortality and loss of active life-years of children,” states the report.

Across the developed and developing world, there is a very large discrepancy in the adult-to-child mortality rates. In wealthy European countries, 35,388 adults die from smoking, as compared to 71 children. In Africa, on the other hand, the ratio is staggeringly reversed at 9,514 to 43,375.

According to the report, two-thirds of the child deaths occur in Africa and Asia. Children aren’t able to easily escape second-hand smoke from their parents. As such, they are more likely to develop asthma and other respiratory problems.

There is a large gap in laws protecting people from second-hand smoke, says the report. Only, 7.4% of the world’s population lives in countries where laws prohibiting smoking in public places are in effect. Because of this and smoking in children’s home environments, 40% of children are exposed to children.

According to WHO estimates made at the beginning of the decade, smoking will soon lead to endemic rates of cancer in the characteristic of the developing world, while chronic diseases (cancer and heart disease) have been more characteristic of the developing world. The anticipated shift in this traditional balance will certainly be affected by speculation that by the mid-2020s, 85% of all smokers will come from countries in the developing world.

Earlier this year, WHO chief Margaret Chan criticized corporate tobacco giants (the so-called Big Tobacco) as targeting women and girls in the developing world through marketing campaigns. In the last decade, production and consumption of cigarettes in the developing world has risen to rates of 70% of global totals. As of 2008, China was home to just below 30% of the world’s smokers while India was home to over 10%. These countries have the largest-growing populations in the world and smoking is often seen as a status symbol. Indonesia, Russia and the US are each home to roughly 5% of the world’s smokers.

As part of their recommendations, the Who authors recommend that all countries implement the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Framework advocates higher taxes on tobacco, plain packaging and bans on tobacco advertising. Only 17 countries have imposed such bans. The latest additions – Colombia, Djibouti, Guatemala, Mauritius, Panama, Turkey, and Zambia – came in late 2008. Experience from difference countries shows that heart attack rates drop 10-20% after a smoking ban is imposed. Already, over 150 countries are signatories to the Framework.

Education campaigns on the dangers that second-hand smoke pose to women and children are also a proposed solution. This will better enable families to protect themselves and the health of children.

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