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Protecting our children from environmental tobacco smoke: one of our great healthcare challenges

Edmund M.T. Lau, David S. Celermajer
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehu098 2452-2453 First published online: 5 March 2014

This editorial refers to ‘Exposure to parental smoking in childhood or adolescence is associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness in young adults: evidence from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study and the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study’, by S. Gall et al., on page 2484.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the US Surgeon General's first report on Smoking and Health. This landmark report in 1964 concluded that cigarette smoking is harmful and causes lung and laryngeal cancer. In 1986, the Surgeon General released a further report on the Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking, providing conclusive evidence that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure, or passive smoking, causes lung cancer.

Half a century later and despite major public health initiatives on tobacco control, tobacco use remains a leading cause of preventable death worldwide. It is estimated that about one-third of adults are regularly exposed to ETS globally.1 Within the European Union (EU), ∼14% of non-smokers are exposed to ETS at home, and 30% of working adults are potentially exposed to passive smoking at the workplace.2 Astonishingly, as many as 700 million children worldwide are also exposed to ETS, mostly at home.3 Furthermore, those who are most likely to smoke are between the ages of 20 and 45, a period that coincides with parenthood.4 …

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