The reduction in the number of passive smokers stagnated from 2011 to 2014 in the USA. due to the "slow" adoption of restrictive measures and tobacco smoke came to affect in that period to 58 million people, 38% children, informed the health authorities.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data in 2013 and 2014, indicates that one in four non-smokers was exposed in those two years to cigarette smoke and that this situation greatly affected proportion to children from 3 to 11 years old.
Smoke-free environments "are the best way to protect" passive smokers, said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC's Smokers and Health Office, as the main lesson learned from the study published today.
The study notes that during the period 2011-2014 the percentage of passive smokers did not decrease significantly in most of the demographic subgroups, despite the fact that reductions had been achieved in the three previous decades.
The federal agency attributed the stagnation to the "slow" local and state adoption of smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and bars during the period studied.
He said that currently 27 states and the District of Columbia have such prohibitions, but their adoption "has slowed in recent years."
However, he clarified that during 2015-2017, 199 jurisdictions adopted laws and 21 have implemented them until last July, which could be reflected in future studies on passive smoking.
This is the case of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that prohibits smoking in homes built with public funds as of last July.
"These findings reveal that there is still much more to be done to protect everyone, especially children, from this preventable health hazard," said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield.
He regretted that "there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke," which contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including about 70 that can cause cancer.
In 2013-2014, 48% of people considered poor and 39% of those who did not own homes were exposed to smoke from smokers, according to the study, which measured exposure from blood tests.
The federal agency noted that certain disparities persist among those affected and mentioned that two of every three African-American children are exposed to secondhand smoke, as well as more than three out of ten non-smokers with lower secondary education.
The smoke of cigarettes and other products used by smokers, he recalled, is the cause of sudden infant death syndrome, infections in the respiratory tract and the ear, as well as asthma attacks in infants and children.
Similarly, it can cause heart disease, stroke and lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
Exposure to so-called "secondhand smoke" causes more than 41,000 deaths from lung cancer and heart disease among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths from sudden infant death syndrome, according to 2014 US Surgeon General's data.