A new joint research initiative, titled, “Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Never-Smoking Youth in 168 Countries” from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in cooperation with East Tennessee State University, the Indian Institute of Technology and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, revealed an alarming number of non-smoking teenagers continue to be exposed to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. The study is currently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study noted the prevalence of secondhand smoke exposure among non-smoking teenagers worldwide and found that a third are regularly exposed in their own homes. The researchers also found over 40% of teenagers are exposed to secondhand smoke while outside their homes.
“We need to protect never-smokers from being exposed to secondhand smoke,” Phani Veeranki, lead author of the study and UTMB assistant professor in the department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, said in a news release. “The negative health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are well known. The question is, how many teens – especially never-smokers – are exposed to it?”
This study is the first to attempt to understand the dangers of secondhand smoke on an international scale. Using the Global Youth Tobacco survey, the researchers were able to sample over 350,000 smoking-naive teenagers from 168 countries and their exposure inside and outside their homes. The study also took note of the impact of parents’ and peers’ smoking, and the teenagers’ knowledge of secondhand smoke, opinion on smoking regulations, and their age, sex, and World Health Organization region.
The survey revealed 90% of non-smoking teens are knowledgeable about the dangers of secondhand smoke, and 79% agree with public smoking rules and regulations. However, these teenagers are the ones who end up more exposed, suggesting the limited benefit of adequate awareness on one’s behaviour and active efforts to avoid exposure.
“We found that the odds of secondhand smoke exposure for never-smoking teens exposed to both parents and peers who smoke is 23 times higher than that of never-smoking teens who don’t have smokers often around them,” said Dr. Veeranki. “Our findings provide evidence for policy makers and public health professionals about the need for smoke-free environments in places frequented by teens worldwide.”
Dr. Veeranki explained that one of the more effective ways to reduce secondhand smoke exposure at home is to boost parents’ awareness of the many health benefits of a smoke-free home, helping them understand what their habit is doing to their children’s health.
Understanding secondhand smoke exposure among different demographics is the first step to provide a solution to the worldwide health problem of tobacco use, this way reducing chronic and life-threatening, smoking-related diseases.