Friday, December 17, 2010

Shedding light on harmful effects of tobacco smoke


MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) pediatrician-researcher Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, FAAP, has been a vocal advocate of the health and protection of children from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Recently, he has made further progress in his efforts to shield children from tobacco and tobacco smoke exposure.

The senior author of a report in the January issue of Pediatrics,  Winickoff explains that children living in multi-unit apartment buildings are at greater risk from second-hand smoke - even when no one smokes inside their own unit - compared with children who live in single-family houses. He and his colleagues found that apartment-dwelling children had a 45 percent higher level of cotinine, a common marker for tobacco exposure, in their systems.

"Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is associated with a variety of illnesses, such as respiratory infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome," says Winickoff.  "We look forward to this study supporting universal smoke-free multi-unit housing.  When landlords set a completely smoke-free policy, they will enjoy lower fire risk and insurance costs, lower clean-up costs between tenants, and they will foster a healthier home for everyone in the building."

In November, Winickoff also made headway toward the protection of children from tobacco when he addressed the Food and Drug Administration Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee on Nov. 18 in Washington D.C. Representing MGHfC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), he shared new public opinion data showing widespread support for a ban on menthol cigarettes, refuting tobacco industry claims that menthol cigarettes should continue to be marketed and sold in low-income neighborhoods.

"It was wonderful to stand with MGHfC and the AAP in support of children's health," says Winickoff.  "Highly addictive menthol cigarettes appeal to children and adolescents, so a ban on these products would be a major win."


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