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December 28, 2010 > Children at risk with second-hand smoke

Children at risk with second-hand smoke

New study shows greater health risks

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Julius B. Richmond Center, the University of Rochester Medical Center and Mass General Hospital for Children shows that children exposed to second-hand smoke, even very low levels, in multi-unit housing are at great risk of developing illnesses ranging from asthma to cognitive impairments to sudden infant death syndrome. The risk exists even if no one smokes in their particular unit.

The "Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Children Who Live in Multi-unit Housing" study found that among children who live in households where no one smokes indoors, those in apartments have cotinine levels (a common marker of tobacco smoke exposure) 45 percent higher than children who live in detached homes. This could be caused by smoke seeping through walls or shared ventilation systems.

"This is the first study to take a look at the exposure to second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing and shows there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure for children," commented Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County Health Officer. "This information should motivate all of us to do more to stop exposure to second-hand smoke, especially when children are affected."

Additionally, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report earlier in the year indicating there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure for children or non-smoking adults. Santa Clara County Public Health Department's Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention Division, in partnership with local public and private agencies, has focused local efforts to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. Recently, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted comprehensive tobacco prevention policies for the unincorporated areas of the county, including a Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance.

"The residents of this county deserve strong policies to safeguard their health," said President Ken Yeager, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, who brought the ordinance to the Board. "These ordinances make Santa Clara County a national leader in blocking tobacco sales to minors and protecting residents from second-hand smoke."

The Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance bans smoking in common areas of all multi-unit residences, in all units of apartments, condominiums and townhouses. The ordinance allows for designated smoking areas for multi-unit residences. These areas must not be enclosed and at least 30 feet away from doors, windows and other openings.

The other comprehensive tobacco prevention policies adopted by the Board of Supervisors were a Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance and a Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance. The passage of all three ordinances lays a foundation to inspire cities within Santa Clara County to adopt similar comprehensive tobacco control policies.

In addition to the ordinances, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department is using grant funds to increase smoking cessation resources, raise awareness of second-hand smoke and provide information to young people about not smoking. These combined tobacco prevention activities serve to protect the health of all residents of Santa Clara County.

For more information about Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Tobacco Prevention Programs, visit

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