A few weeks ago we looked at recent statistics indicating that worldwide, more than 3 million people die each year from health conditions related to outdoor air pollution. But the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that even more people — 4.3 million — die each year from the effects of indoor air pollution. The largest contributor of household air pollution comes from burning coal, wood, and charcoal to cook food and to heat homes. The use of kerosene lamps for lighting remains popular in many developing countries and poses a danger, as with all sources of indoor pollution, in poorly ventilated homes.

And then there is secondhand tobacco smoke, which poses as much of a problem in developed nations as it does in poorer countries. For children with asthma, it’s clear that exposure to tobacco smoke is a big, fat no-no. Lisa Rapaport looks at a new study and hopes people who smoke will be more considerate of children:

The team analyzed data from 25 studies that included a combined total of more than 430,000 children. Kids with asthma who were also exposed to second-hand smoke were 66 percent more likely to seek emergency care and 85 percent more likely to be hospitalized than their peers who didn’t spend time around smokers, the study found.

For asthmatic kids, breathing in cigarette smoke was also linked to a more than tripled risk of poor lung function and 32 percent higher odds of wheezing symptoms.


Globally, about a quarter of a billion people have asthma. This includes 9% of children living in the United States. Since the results of this study really just confirm what we already know about the effects of secondhand smoke on children with asthma, it’s not a far leap to conclude that every child should be protected from having to breathe tobacco smoke emitted by adults. In fact, adults who smoke around children are actively endangering the health of those children and are doing so knowingly. Ignoring the facts and denying what is obvious (and what science has been telling us for a long, long time) should no longer be tolerated by any adult:

Even so, given that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, the study results aren’t surprising, said Sam Oh, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of toxins, carcinogens and irritants,” Oh, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Exposure to this brew causes immediate, measurable damage to our blood vessels and prevents them from functioning normally, including causing a child to have an asthma attack severe enough to warrant hospitalization.”


People who smoke are addicted to nicotine. It’s hard to break such a strong habit and powerful addiction, but it can be done. People do it all the time. If you are reading this and are a smoker, is it your time to quit now? Ask for help if you must, but looking into a child’s eyes may be all the help you will need.