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DHS news release

Sept. 18, 2007


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Technical contact: Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist, 971-673-0982


Partnership seeks to protect children from secondhand smoke

Acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu today joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics to announce a new partnership to protect the nation's children from secondhand smoke.


According to the report of the Surgeon General released in 2006 "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke":

  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and young children.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe attacks.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheeze and breathlessness, among school-aged children.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for ear infections and are more likely to need an operation to insert ear tubes for drainage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Administration for Children and Families will also highlight their joint initiative to reduce children's secondhand smoke exposure among the hundreds of thousands of children who participate in the national Head Start program.

Despite advances made in tobacco control in the last decade, almost 60 percent of U.S. children ages 3 to 11 years old -- almost 22 million children -- are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Most children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or in the car.


In Oregon, 38 percent of eighth graders live with someone who smokes.


"Secondhand smoke exposure is one of the most dangerous, yet most easily remedied, health risks to children," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist. "Oregon's Tobacco Prevention and Education Program is working hard to inform parents about the dangers of smoking around their children, especially in their homes and cars."


Initiatives to reduce secondhand smoke exposure among children in Oregon include:

  • The Smokefree Housing Project: A coalition of businesses and health advocates working toward giving everyone living in multi-unit housing a choice to live in a smoke-free building.
  • Air testing in cars: A project of local tobacco prevention and education programs that will measure the amount of particulate matter in cars in which someone is smoking.
  • Public Awareness and Education Campaign: The Tobacco Prevention and Education Program airs advertisements educating parents and caretakers about the dangers of smoking around children.

"Exposing children to secondhand smoke means exposing them to over 4,000 toxins," Kohn said. "Children are the innocent victims of addicted parents and caretakers. We know parents don't want to endanger their children, and we encourage those who smoke to quit. And for parents and caretakers who are not ready to quit smoking, we encourage them to smoke outside and away from their children."

Anyone can receive advice and support to quit smoking or using tobacco by calling the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.