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Study shows smoking bans decrease kids' exposure to secondhand smoke

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My hometown of Austin didn't ban smoking in public places until 2005. So, despite being raised in a non-smoking home, I inevitably inhaled varying amounts of secondhand smoke when my family dined at restaurants, attended sporting events or even went shopping. How much secondhand smoke I inhaled as a child and how that exposure will, or will not, affect my overall health is unclear.

But one thing that is becoming more clear to researchers is smoke-free laws are an effective means of protecting the public from secondhand smoke.

A study published online today in Pediatrics found that children who live in non-smoking homes are less likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke if their communities have smoking bans. White Coat Notes reports:

Using a national survey of more than 11,000 children and teenagers that measured signs of smoke exposure in the blood, the researchers compared children in smoking and non-smoking homes who lived in counties that had smoking bans with children who live in counties without such laws. None of the children themselves smoked.

More than half of all the children had detectable levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine found in the blood. But the prevalence of cotinine was 39 percent lower among children who lived with nonsmokers in counties that had smoking bans compared to similar children in counties without such laws. For children in smoking homes, the bans made no difference in their cotinine levels.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence showing the health benefits of smoke-free laws. A report published in May concluded a nationwide smoking ban in public places would decrease the number of Americans suffering from heart attacks by more than 18,000 within the first year.

Previously: Massachusetts stores may be required to post graphic anti-smoking signs
Photo by curran.kelleher

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