Letter to the Editor

Secondhand smoke kills

Monday, February 21, 2011

As a health professional I know that secondhand smoke kills.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke knows no boundaries. It affects children and adults, smokers and non-smokers alike.

Three thousand adult lung cancer deaths occur each year due to secondhand smoke. Of these 3,000 adults, the EPA estimates that 800 die from exposure to secondhand smoke at home, and the majority of adults -- 2,200 -- die from exposure in work or social settings. One hour in a smoky restaurant is equivalent to directly inhaling the smoke of three cigarettes.

How many people do you know who died of lung cancer but never smoked?

Each year 150,000 to 300,000 children are diagnosed with bronchitis or pneumonia from breathing secondhand tobacco smoke.

A ban on smoking in restaurants and bars protects the nonsmoker from involuntary exposure to a hazardous carcinogen. Smokers who choose to take a health risk themselves should not impose this risk on others. Smoking is optional, breathing is not.

Additional scientific organizations confirming these effects include the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Surgeon General of the U.S. and the World Health Organization.

Secondhand smoke does kill. If a business owner exposed customers and employees to any other known carcinogen, that business would be shut down. Why is secondhand smoke any different?

DR. DANNA COTNER, Cape Girardeau