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March 26, 2014

March 26, 2014: Letters to the editor

Smoke-free air: big deal for little ones

Sound the alarm … again and again … secondhand smoke is bad news for our children!

The first surgeon general’s report on the danger of tobacco was released 50 years ago in 1964! The latest 2014 surgeon general’s report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress,” states that there have been 20 million smoking-related deaths and 2.5 million of those deaths have been among nonsmokers.

Children are the largest group of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Approximately, 60 percent of U.S. children ages 3-11 are exposed to the known carcinogens of tobacco smoke. Research studies have consistently shown that infants and children who are exposed are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), decreased lung development, more severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and recurrent ear infections. The California EPA released 2007 data estimating that secondhand smoke exposure contributed to 202,300 asthma attacks and 790,000 doctor appointments for ear infections. Ongoing research is being done to investigate the relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and the risk of childhood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphomas and brain tumors.

As a pediatrician, one of my responsibilities is to educate parents on the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure. However, advocating for smoke-free air goes beyond the doctor’s office; it rests with the community.

We must protect our children’s health from diseases linked to secondhand smoke exposure. Childhood diseases and potentially serious diseases as adults, such as lung cancers, heart attacks and strokes, are preventable. There are no risk-free levels of secondhand smoke exposure. According to the 2014 surgeon general’s report, eliminating smoking in indoor spaces, both private and public, is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers. Smoke-free air is a big deal … for everyone!

Dana Stewart, M.D.

Kokomo pediatrician

Just say no to live animals for Easter

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