Kids breathe parents’ smoke
The lung association says almost half of students are exposed
Nearly half of 1,400 elementary school students participating in a statewide smoking prevention program said someone in their home smokes cigarettes.
"We think this is alarming," said Jean Evans, executive director of the American Lung Association of Hawaii, "especially since Hawaii has the second-highest rate of asthma in the United States for children under age 17."
Native Hawaiian children have double the national rate for asthma, and Japanese children have three times the national rate, she said.
"We hope these facts will be an incentive to smokers to curtail their habit in the presence of children, and we're here to help them quit."
The survey was conducted during the 2006-2007 school year as part of an American Lung Association of Hawaii program called Word of Mouth.
Last year Hawaii became the 14th state to prohibit smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, to protect others from secondhand smoke.
The student survey "seems to indicate that family members really do not understand that smoking in confined areas, such as homes and cars, actually is harmful to their children and others," Evans said.
The association also is concerned because various groups are expected to push legislation in the next session to dilute or repeal the smoking ban.
Evans said the lung association is trying to expand its educational and awareness programs. "We know people want the best for their children. We just want to let them know one way to show love for children is not to smoke in confined areas.
"We're not saying people can't smoke, but do not do it in homes or cars" where children are exposed, she said.
Effects of smoking on children
The American Lung Association of Hawaii has issued a revised Fact Sheet on Secondhand Smoke to help smokers understand how their smoking affects children:
» About 140,000 residents -- 11 percent of the state population -- are estimated to be at risk of secondhand cigarette smoke exposure in the home.
» Nearly 40,200 of those exposed to smoke are 17 years and younger, representing 14 percent of Isle children.
» Molokai has the highest rate of youth at risk for secondhand cigarette smoke exposure at 26.8 percent, compared with other communities with risk rates of 4.4 percent to 14.4 percent. Hawaii County also has a high risk rate for secondhand smoke exposure among children and adults.
» Within counties, the Nanakuli-Waianae and North Hawaii areas consistently rank higher than other communities for secondhand smoke exposure.
» Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, according to the National Toxicology Program. It has been designated as a known human carcinogen.
» More than 126 million Americans are exposed regularly to secondhand smoke, and tens of thousands die each year because of "involuntary smoking."
» Children exposed to cigarette smoke are at greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections and ear problems, more severe asthma and slow lung growth.