MONDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Children who live in
smoke-free apartments but have neighbors who light up suffer from
exposure to smoke that seeps through walls or shared ventilation
systems, new research shows.
Compared to kids who live in detached homes, apartment-dwelling
children have 45 percent more cotinine, a marker of tobacco
exposure, in their blood, according to a study published in the
January issue of
Although this study didn't look at whether the health of the
children was compromised, previous studies have shown physiologic
changes, including cognitive disruption, with increased levels of
cotinine, even at the lowest levels of exposure, said study author
Dr. Karen Wilson.
"We think that this research supports the efforts of people who have already been moving towards [banning smoking in multi-unit housing] in their own communities," added Wilson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
Vince Willmore, vice president of communications at the Campaign
for Tobacco-Free Kids, agreed. "This study demonstrates the
importance of implementing smoke-free policies in multi-unit
housing and of parents adopting smoke-free policies in all homes,"
Willmore said. Since smoke doesn't stay in one place, Willmore said
only comprehensive smoke-free policies provide effective
The authors analyzed data from a national survey of 5,002
children between 6 and 18 years old who lived in nonsmoking homes.
The children lived in detached houses, attached homes and
apartments, which allowed the researchers to see if cotinine levels
varied by types of housing.
About three-quarters of children living in any kind of housing
had been exposed to secondhand smoke, but apartment dwellers had 45
percent more cotinine in their blood than residents of detached
houses. For white apartment residents, the difference was even more
startling: a 212 percent increase vs. 46 percent in blacks and no
increase in other races or ethnicities.
But a major limitation of the study is that the authors couldn't
separate other potential sources of exposure, such as family
members who only smoked outside but might carry particles indoors
on their clothes. Nor did it take into account day-care centers or
other forms of child care that might contribute to smoke
Even so, Willmore said, "It's critical that we take additional
action to protect our children from secondhand smoke," especially
in light of a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention stating that more than half of children aged
3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke.
"Some municipalities, especially in California and Washington, have started moving towards [restricting smoking in multi-unit housing], and in New York City some private apartment buildings and condominium complexes have banned smoking," said Wilson.
Noting that some consider a smoking ban in apartments an
infringement upon personal rights and privacy, the authors say the
civil liberties argument only holds if the smoke has no impact on
"We also feel very strongly that if we're going to be putting restrictions on smoking in people's homes . . . we need to be sure we have the resources in place for smokers to either cut down or smoke in other places," said Wilson.
But such initiatives have already angered advocates of smokers'
rights and are likely to do so again.
A second study in the same issue of
Pediatrics found that as smoke-free laws get tougher, kids'
asthma symptoms, though not asthma rates, are declining.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined
U.S. health data from 1999 to 2006, and found a 33 percent decline
in symptoms, including persistent wheeze and chronic night cough,
among kids who weren't exposed to smoke.
Prior research from the same group had found that tougher laws
were also linked with lower cotinine levels in children and
adolescents, down about 60 percent between 2003 and 2006 in
children living in smoke-free homes.
According to the study authors, 73 percent of U.S. residents are
now covered by smoke-free laws.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on how to
protect yourself and your children from
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