September 7th, 2010
04:35 PM ET
More than half of U.S. children between ages 3 and 11 show signs in their blood of exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which examined blood samples from more than 1,300 children.
These children are more prone to pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and decreased lung function, according to the CDC report. It also finds that 40 percent of nonsmoking adults have cotinine in their blood, a chemical that indicates exposure to secondhand smoke. For the most part, children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes, the CDC said.
“After all these decades, and all the attention to this problem, to have almost 90 million Americans exposed to secondhand stroke is really striking,” said Terry Pechacek, the associate director for science at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
While smoking rates declined from 2000 to 2005, rates have not changed much since then, and today 20 percent of Americans smoke.
In 1996, the federal government set a goal to have a 12 percent smoking rate by 2010.
Michael Eriksen, who was director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health at the time, says there are several reasons this goal wasn’t met.
“There’s no federal clean air act, and the Food and Drug Administration only recently started regulating cigarette sales very recently,” he says. “There are things we could have done at the federal level for a decade that we didn’t utilize.”
Some states with strong anti-smoking laws, such as California, have seen a decline in smoking rates. The American Lung Association has a state-by-state list of anti-smoking laws.
Pechacek says the tobacco industry has employed successful sales tactics, such as direct-mail advertising, while fewer dollars have been spent to combat smoking because of the recession.
“We’re losing money to do the things we know work,” he says. “Every year we miss the opportunity to help people quit smoking.”
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