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May 5, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, (503) 731-4180

State program, partners take aim at reducing dangers of tobacco smoke to babies and children

A pilot project to raise public awareness of secondhand smoke's dangers to babies and children is being launched in the Portland, Bend and Medford areas by the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Medical Association and Oregon Lung Association. "Reducing children’s exposure to tobacco smoke is critical to their health and well-being," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Eye-catching educational materials with the theme, "Smoke around your children and they could inhale equal to 102 packs of cigarettes by age 5," are being distributed to pediatric clinics in the Portland area and to pediatric and family practice clinics and offices in Bend and Medford. Kohn noted that partnering with physicians will help get information to parents and other caregivers.

"Babies and children are especially susceptible to the dangers of tobacco smoke because they are still developing physically," said John Evans, M.D., chair of the OMA Community Health Committee. "They inhale more toxins per pound of body weight than adults because of their more rapid breathing rates."

Evans said that children regularly exposed to secondhand smoke make more trips to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, and are hospitalized more frequently. "These children have more ear infections, more respiratory illnesses and more asthma. In addition, babies exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than those living in non-smoking households."

About 167,000 children in Oregon are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, according to the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Parents and caregivers can get free help to quit smoking by calling the toll-free Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-7867. Learn more about tobacco prevention and education.