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Stopping The Secondhand Smoke Blues

2009 October 20

I recently traveled to a large city and while there I tried to take it all in – the food, sightseeing attractions, and the people. Unfortunately another thing I took in while visiting was all of the secondhand smoke on the crowded streets. At first, I didn’t realize the number of people smoking until I got back to my room and still smelled smoke. My clothes and hair had utterly absorbed it! Now you’re probably thinking that because I’m from Indiana and a smaller city than most, I wouldn’t really have a clue what big cities and people smoking all the time would be like. And while that has been true, I also find that here in Washington, D.C., I don’t really have a problem breathing fresh air either. So it truly was a surprise to me to experience such a ‘smoky’ city. I also grew up in a household where my parents did not smoke. I think that this is one of the greatest gifts I have been given by my parents and in doing so, they raised me not to smoke either. Not that I would have had any say in the matter as a child, but growing up in a smoke free household was a gift to my health and overall well-being. For this reason, smoke free homes are essential for children today. While you can’t really avoid secondhand smoke walking on the street in public, it makes it even more essential to have a house that children can go home to where they can easily breathe. Children spend the majority of their time at home and therefore it is extremely important to have a smoke free home. Children’s bodies aren’t as developed and their lungs can be brutally affected by exposure to second hand smoke. They have higher breathing rates than adults and have little control over their indoor environments. Choosing not to smoke in your house will reduce the risk of children getting sick with coughs, breathing problems like asthma, and developing ear infections. In honor of Children’s Health Month, you can take a pledge to make your home and your car smoke-free and get your very own pledge certificate. You can also read helpful information and read more about health effects. By making your home smoke free your children will thank you for it later! And you can be proud of yourself as well!

About the Author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Linda Karr permalink
    October 20, 2009

    Another kind of secondhand smoke in the United States is from neighbors who use wood stoves to heat their homes and their hot water. New devices are being made to divert smoke away from the homes being heated (inefficiently), usually through outdoor wood boilers, but the smoke does go somewhere, to neighbors who usually would never dream this sort of pollution could be permitted in an urban area, but it often is. See and Residents against wood smoke emission particulates. One wood stove produces hundreds of times the particulates as a natural gas furnace. Particulates (Black Carbon) is the 2nd leading cause of global warming and stopping Black Carbon is the quickest way to slow climate change.

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 20, 2009

    Hey Emily Bruckmann…, in my country, cigarettes are entertainment ! Almost smoker will be watch ” Football League ” Europe from local television. Not pay. Free ! Sponsored ? Company of cigarettes….

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 21, 2009

    A smoke free house is a very important thing for children and adults. I was born at a time when it was thought to be all right for a pregnant mom to smoke one or two cigarettes a day during pregnancy. There was such a time in the 1950s and thought ok to drink a glass of alcohol a day during pregnancy, too. My mother did smoking and drinking while pregnant. My father was a heavy drinker and a heavy chain smoker. He died of a heart attack at 47 and my mother dropped cigarette smoking altogether then and cut way back on drinking. So I had a smoke free house from the time I was 5 years old and have out lived my father so far by almost 7 years. After my father died, the only times I was exposed to second hand smoke at home was when my aunt and uncle came over once in a while for visits. My uncle was an especially haevy smoker and had a series of bad heart attacks. They didn’t come over too often. But you are a whole lot healthier if you don’t smoke and are not around people who do very much. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Chris P. Bacon permalink
    October 21, 2009

    It’s good to hear that you grew up in an environment that was smoke free. That is a huge help to the healthy development of a child. Keep up the amazing work.

    Chris Bacon

  5. Jackenson Durand permalink
    October 21, 2009

    Is it the world becoming stress and stressfully?
    Years ago back from our native Country; a group of College friends analyzed nation’s behaviors in stress situation.
    In the league CAlCIO we have been observing, gums amount accumulating by coaches.
    We can use our Psycho-philosophy for being never discriminatory. Others would choose to go Taboo, others like myself choosing to “Going Green” as the nature’s beauty.
    We have a young generation who only focus on their present enjoy life, they believe on what the Law offering them but so selfish they forget the nature’s future Law and environment. By starting to make nature conservancy, we can do children health conservancy.
    We do not need to have a Doctorate in medicine to make children afraid of being ultra-smoker by making them to do little experimentation themselves, like in a class room we can ask students to take their own book, take a smoke and breathe on the book or paper, they would observe a very different color from green that would be their lungs’ color tomorrow.

  6. Alan Gregory, Lt. Col., USAF, Ret. permalink
    October 22, 2009

    It think about this all the time. Upon leaving active duty in the Air Force in the late 80s (so that my wife could pursue an academic career with Penn State University), I went to work for a small daily newspaper in northeastern Pa. One of the first hurdles I encountered was the tremendously bad (and high level) of secondhand cigarette an d cigar smoke I encountered in the night-shift newsroom. I complained at length over the course of many months, even taking my case to the publisher downstairs and threatening to quit for the sake of my health. Voila, one day a sign appeared on the newsroom wall declaring the room to be a no-smoking zone. But, the sign also said that this action was being taken “due to complaints,” not because of the public health crisis such smoking posed. What a travesty.

  7. Johnny R. permalink
    October 24, 2009

    Second hand smoke comes from more than tobacco. Coal fired power plants and jet planes send tons of toxic smoke into the atmosphere and everyone on Earth is forced to breathe it. Ironically, on 9/11, 2001 when all U.S. air traffic was grounded, some people remarked how suddenly the air seemed more fresh and pleasant to breathe.

  8. Alicia W permalink
    November 2, 2009

    It is nearly impossible to escape secondhand smoke, especially for children who are too little to voice their concern and walk away from it. I am all for smoke free communities, where nonsmokers can go to restaurants and enjoy their meals without breathing in smoke filled air. Also, research has shown that third hand smoke is just as harmful as secondhand smoke. Third hand smoke is what one smells on their hair and clothes after smoking or being around someone who recently smoked. It also clings to furniture and carpet and lingers for hours, but most people do not realize the negative consequences third hand smoke creates. I think we have come a long way in reducing the amount of secondhand smoke that affects million, but we can still do more by making all restaurants smoke free and encouraging parents to refrain from smoking when children are present. Good job Emily, keep up the good work, and best of luck!

  9. Shawn A permalink
    November 18, 2009

    I agree with Emily when she talks about how parents can do a lot in preventing health problems in their children by not smoking. Having a smoke free household can allow for healthier children, and possibly even set a good example that will be followed by those children.

    Even if parents are smokers, simply stepping outside to smoke may also help reduce health problems. But overall, the fewer smokers, the cleaner the air, the fewer problems that are associated with smoke there will be.

    I think that the biggest way to help this issue is through the continued education of the public about the negative health risks associated with smokers.

    We have all heard stories about how hard it is to stop smoking, and that is why we need to advertise hard to children in their developmental years to make sure they will not develop this habit. Now obviously the teenage years are not the only time when people pick up smoking, but if we can convince a significant number of these people to not pick up a cigarette, it would be a great success.

    Thanks Emily for the post!

  10. Art H permalink
    April 2, 2011

    While I agree that convincing kids not to pick up the habit, and that smoking outside of the house is healthier for everyone concerned, I continue to be shocked at how little the most powerful government on the planet is doing to put an end to the nearly 400,000 smoking related deaths each year.

    The government and medical communities give a lot of lip service to finding solutions, but that’s all it is…lip service.

    Here’s an excerpt from a very interesting article on the subject of quitting smoking…

    “In June this year (2009), President Obama signed legislation that grants the FDA the right to ban toxic substances in cigarettes as well as place restrictions on the levels of nicotine additives.

    Sounds like a wonderful bit of legislation to me! But WAIT…nicotine was not classified as a toxic substance by this or any other piece of legislation. The FDA was only granted the right to restrict the levels of nicotine additives, not ban it. Consequently, nicotine will be around for a long time to come. And there’s a very good reason why nicotine has not been classified as a toxic chemical with FDA approval to ban it…if the FDA was given power to ban it, the entire pharmaceutical nicotine replacement industry would be put out of business as well. And we all know who’s buttering the FDA’s toast…yep the pharmaceutical industry.”

    So here is my issue with what little our government is doing, but could be doing…the medical community is 100% agreed that nicotine is a very toxic substance, so why is it not being classified as such to give the FDA the teeth it needs to end the reign of terror this substance has on the population of the world?

    Well, the article excerpted makes it abundantly clear. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of government lip service. It’s time to do something constructive…ban nicotine!

    Just my two cents worth.

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