cigarettes

Young Children and Secondary Tobacco Smoke

By Marcia Anderson

One-half to two-thirds of all American children under five years of age are exposed to cigarette smoke in the home. A recent national survey indicated that 43 percent of children two months to 11 years of age live in homes with at least one smoker.  Adults have a choice, whether they wish to smoke or not, infants and young children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) do not have that choice, and it can, and does affect the quality of their lives.

Infants and young children whose parents smoke are among the most seriously affected by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that children whose parents smoke had between a 20 and 40 percent greater risk of hospitalization for severe bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year of life.  Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have reduced lung function and symptoms of respiratory irritation such as coughing, excess phlegm and wheezing. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of avoidable death in the United States. What this means is that even though the ill effects of active and passive smoking are staggering, they can be reduced and even eliminated.

Secondary smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke is a known cause of lung cancer in humans and a Group A carcinogen. The cigarettes contain some 4,000 substances, of which more than 40 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals. Other chemicals present in tobacco smoke such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide are strong irritants that can cause a variety of serious cardiac and pulmonary diseases. What’s more, there are no safe threshold levels of exposure to the toxicants in tobacco smoke that have been found.

Toxic Ingestion of Cigarette Butts.

Another source of exposure to tobacco by babies and toddlers is the ingestion of cigarettes or cigarette butts. Most cases of nicotine poisoning in children result from ingestion of cigarettes. Each year, poison control centers in the United States receive thousands of reports of children ingesting tobacco products. Researchers at the Rhode Island Department of Health recently analyzed reported ingestions of cigarettes among children under the age of six in their state. The mean age of the child involved was 12 months, and 77 percent of the children were between the ages of six and 12 months. Ninety-eight percent of the exposures occurred in the child’s home.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Cigarettes: When did it become ‘OK’ to Litter?

By Kevin Hurley

The next time you are walking down the streets of NYC, take a moment to look around on the ground and actually count the number of cigarette butts that litter our city.  I performed this very activity this morning while walking down Broadway from the subway to the office building where I work.  On one side of one city block I counted 57 cigarette butts.  During my walk down this same city block I witnessed two individuals discard their half finished cigarettes onto the city streets.  Not surprisingly, no one seemed shocked or said anything regarding their actions, myself included.  So, when did it become ‘OK’ to litter?  Why does everyone get a “pass” when it comes to littering cigarettes?

(EPA Photo/Kevin Hurley)

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in America.  Most cigarette filters contain some sort of plastic, which can endure in the environment for long periods of time.  Nationally, cigarette butts account for one-quarter or more of the items that are tossed onto our streets and roadways.  According to the 2011 Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup, cigarette butts represented 32% of all debris counted.  Cigarette butts, traveling mainly through storm water systems, often end up in local streams, rivers and waterways.  Unfortunately, residents, businesses and local governments are usually stuck with the bill when it comes to cleaning up this litter.

Not being a smoker, I do not really understand the issues that smokers face when it comes to the decision of where and how to discard of cigarettes.  Is it a lack of ash receptacles, a lack of awareness of the environmental impacts, a lack of caring, a lack of motivation or some other rationale?  An individual’s decision to throw their trash on the ground, however you look at it, is still littering.

So I’ll ask my question again, when did it become ‘OK’ to litter?

About the author:  Kevin has been working as a Grants Management Specialist with the EPA since 2007, and is currently on detail serving as special assistant to the Regional Administrator.  He grew up in South Jersey, went to school outside of Baltimore, and received a Masters in Public Policy from Rutgers University.  Kevin currently resides in the Upper East Side of Manhattan where you can usually find him exercising or playing outdoor ice hockey in Central Park.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.