It’s Like This By Bob Palmer

Put out the smoking lamp

We have a situation where 20 percent of the adult population is killing the rest of us. Could it be time for the 80 percent to tell the 20 percent to stop?

Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control paint some interesting pictures.

Nearly half of nonsmoking Americans are still breathing in cigarette fumes – that’s the bad news.

The good news is that a lot fewer of us are being exposed to cigarette smoke in our daily lives.

A main reason for the decline in secondhand smoke is the growing number of laws and policies that you can hear smokers griping about on every bar stool. We now have smoking bans at workplaces, bars, restaurants and public places.

Another factor is the drop in the number of adult smokers: It has now inched below 20 percent, according to 2007 CDC data.

The new study found about 46 percent of nonsmokers had signs of nicotine in their blood in tests done from 1999 through 2004. That was a steep drop from 84 percent when similar tests were done in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The decline in secondhand smoke exposure was not as dramatic in black nonsmokers as it was in whites and Mexican-Americans. The proportion of blacks with a recent exposure to tobacco smoke dropped from 94 percent to about 71 percent, for whites it dropped from 83 percent to 43 percent and for Mexican-Americans, 78 percent to 40 percent.

Cigarettes cause lung cancer and other deadly illnesses not only in smokers, but also in nonsmokers who breathe in smoke, studies have shown. As one health official put it, “There is no safe level of exposure.”

For nonsmoking adults, secondhand smoke increases their lung cancer risk by at least 20 percent and their heart disease risk by at least 25 percent. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of asthma attacks, ear problems, acute respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome, health officials say.

Particularly troubling — the exposures for children did not decline as dramatically as it did for adults. More than 60 percent of children ages 4 through 11 had recent exposure to cigarette smoke in the 1999-2004 period, the researchers found.

Some would argue that with the percentage of Americans smoking in decline and the number of people being exposed to second hand smoke dropping that the problem is on the way to solving itself.

“Smokers are a dying breed…

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