Secondhand smoke exposure rates in the U.S. have been cut in half since 1999, but exposure among children, non-Hispanic blacks, those in poverty and those who rent their housing remains high.
“Although population exposure to SHS [second hand smoke] has declined over the past 2 decades, many nonsmokers remain exposed to SHS in workplaces, public places, homes and vehicles,” David M. Homa, PhD, Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC, and colleagues wrote.
David M. Homa
To assess SHS exposure in nonsmokers 3 years and older, researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2012. Exposure was defined as having a serum cotinine level of 0.05 to 10 ng/mL.
Results demonstrated that serum cotinine levels in nonsmokers dropped from 52.5% during 1999 to 2000 to 25.3% during 2011 to 2012.
While exposure rates have dropped, researchers said that disparities do exist, noting that declines in exposure over time have been slower. During 2011-2012, children aged 3 to 11 years (40.6%), non-Hispanic Blacks (46.8%), persons living below the poverty level (43.2%) and persons living in rental housing (36.8%), had the highest rates of SHS exposure.
Children are most exposed to SHS in their homes, and almost all nonsmokers who live with someone who smokes inside the home are exposed to SHS, according to the study. The researchers wrote that prohibition of smoking in all U.S. subsidized housing would save $500 million in health care costs.
“Continued efforts to promote implementation of comprehensive statewide laws prohibiting smoking in workplaces and public places, smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing, and voluntary smoke-free home and vehicle rules are critical to protect nonsmokers from this preventable health hazard in the places they live, work and gather,” Homa and colleagues wrote. – by Casey Hower
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.