New evidence on risks of passive smoking

Friday 17 October 1997

ASH/ Press releases/


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Press release17 October 1997 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health



Friday 17 October 1997

New evidence on risks of passive smoking

A new report has revealed that passive smoking is an independent risk factor for heartdisease and lung cancer in adults and is a cause of asthma and other respiratory illnessesin children. The report from the State of California [1] has identified a range ofdiseases which are causally linked to, or exacerbated by passive smoking (see attachedtable).

The scientific evidence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and diseasessuch as lung cancer, childhood asthma and other lung disorders has already beenestablished. However, the California review has revealed , for the first time, thatpassive smoking can cause asthma in children: previously there had only beenevidence to show that passive smoking increased the severity of the disease among childrenwho already had asthma.

Commenting on the report, Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said: “Children areseriously at risk of developing asthma and other lung diseases if they are exposed totobacco smoke in the home. Children’s lungs are very vulnerable and life-long damagemay result from early passive smoking. This report should remove any doubt about theserious effects of passive smoking, particularly the effect it has on children.”

In addition to revealing new diseases associated with passive smoking, the Californiareport has quantified the effects of passive smoke exposure in California and for thewhole of the USA. Using this data, ASH has estimated the incidence of illness and deathcaused by passive smoking in the UK – see attached. The results show, for example, that upto 62,264 cases of bronchitis or pneumonia in babies can be attributable to parentalsmoking.


Notes to editors

[1] Health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Report of the Office ofEnvironmental Health Hazard Assessment, Environmental Protection Agency of California,1997

Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902

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