New research from the American Cancer Society finds childhood exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to serious and possibly fatal lung disease later in life.
Researchers followed 70,900 nonsmoking adults who were between the ages of 50 and 74 at the start of the study for 22 years. The participants were also asked about their exposure to secondhand smoke when they were children, such as if they lived with family members who were smokers.
In results published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, adults who reported living with a daily smoker as a child were 31 percent more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a serious lung disease that obstructs airflow and makes it difficult to breathe. This study is the first to directly link COPD and childhood exposure to secondhand smoke.
The study provides new evidence about the dangers of exposing children to secondhand smoke. In general, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and it has been shown to cause cancer and increase the risk of heart disease. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to get serious lung infections, get sick more often and develop asthma. Secondhand smoke has also been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Fortunately, more public places are adhering to smoke-free laws to protect everyone from secondhand smoke. If you do smoke, aim to make your home and car smoke-free to protect your children. If you’re looking to quit smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations and health departments have free tools and resources available.