Second-Hand Smoking Kills 6L People Annually: WHO Study
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27 November 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Second–hand smoke (SHS) is killing six lakhs annually, including 1.65 lakh children before they reach their fifth birthday.
A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 192 countries – the first of its kind to assess all deaths caused by SHS has found that tobacco kills nearly 5.7 millions globally every year, including 5.1 millions who die from their own smoking. The rest perish, thanks to passive smoking.
Only 7.4% of global population live in countries that boast of laws to prevent smoking in public places. Though India has banned smoking in public places, its stringent implementation has left a lot to be desired.
India recently released its Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), which found that despite a ban on public smoking about five in 10 adults (52.3%) were exposed to SHS at home and 29% at public places mainly in public transport and restaurants.
The WHO study, published in British medical journal The Lancet on Friday, said passive smoking is estimated to have caused 3.79 lakh deaths from ischaemic heart condition, 1.65 lakh deaths from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 from asthma and 21,400 from lung cancer around 1% of global deaths.
Around 47% women, who actually smoke much lesser than men, perish by inhaling SHS. The corresponding figures for children and men are 28% and 26%, respectively.
"The combination of infectious diseases and tobacco could be lethal for children," said Dr Annette Pruss–Ustun of WHO’s Tobacco–Free Initiative in Geneva. She and her colleagues concluded that 40% children, 33% male non–smokers and 35% female non–smokers are regularly exposed to SHS.
The biggest impact on children is in the developing world. Two–thirds of these deaths occur in Africa and South Asia, the authors claim, adding that children’s exposure to SHS most likely happens at home.