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Passive smoking causes more heart disease deaths than lung cancer deaths

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A new study led by World Health Organization researchers found passive smoking or secondhand smoke kills about 600,000 people worldwide each year. Overall, tobacco smoking kills an estimated 5.1 million people worldwide each year.

Passive smoking causes 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 deaths from asthma and 21,400 lung cancer deaths.

Annette Pruss-Ustun of the WHO in Geneva and colleagues reported their study in the Lancet journal saying that two-thirds of the passive-smoking induced deaths occur in Africa and south Asia.

Children are more heavily exposed to passive smoking, which mostly likely occurs in the home, than any other age group and about 165,000 children die each year because of secondhand smoke.

In poor countries like those in Africa, more children die from passive smoking than adults, 43,375 children versus 9,514 adults, whereas in high income European countries fewer children die from secondhand smoke than adults, 71 children versus 35,388 adults.

For the study, the authors analyzed data from 192 countries dated back to 2004 and found overall, 40 percent of children, 33 percent of non-smoking men and 35 percent of non-smoking women were exposed to passive smoking in 2004.

In comparison, only 7.4 percent of the world population live in a non-smoking environment.

Pruss-Ustun and colleagues called for more non-smoking regulations and higher taxes on tobbacco and cigarettes to help people reduce use of cigarettes.

A health observer suggested higher taxes may help to some degree, but smokers may need to consider using alternatives like "quit smoking pill" or "quit smoking medicine" to help them stop smoking.

Passive smoking in the United States

Rebbecca E Schane MD and Stanton A Glantz Ph.D of University of California in San Francisco cited a report in the Oct 13, 2009 issue of Circulation saying passive smoking causes about 50,000 deaths annually in the united States with the vast majority of the deaths from heart disease.

The authors said the effects of secondhand smoke on many pathophysiological mediators of coronary artery disease are as detrimental as active smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 438,000 people in the United States died prematurely from cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke annually during the period of 1997 to 2001.

During 1997 to 2001, cigarette smoking and tobacco use killed 259,494 men and 178,408 women annually in the U.S.  Of the deaths, 158,529 or 39.8 percent  resulted from lung cancer and others, 137,979 or 34.7 percent from heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, and 101,454 or 25.5 percent  from asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The average annual smoking-attributable productivity losses were about 61.9 billion for men and $30.5 billion for men during the study period.

Jimmy Downs

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