What is the world's leading cause of preventable death? Smoking kills 5.7 million people worldwide EVERY YEAR

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
The leading cause of preventable deaths?  No big surprise--smoking, of course, according to a new report from the World Heath Organization.  Tobacco kills a total of 5.7 million people worldwide year. Here's the shocking revelation from the study: second-hand smoke (also known as "passive smoke") kills more than 600,000 people worldwide each year, including more than 165,000 children under the age of 5.

While most are aware of the close connection between smoking and lung cancer, the study revealed that lung cancer is just a small piece of the pie. More than half of the deaths are from heart disease, followed by deaths from cancer, lung infections, and asthma.  Of the 603,000 global deaths caused by second-hand smoke, 390,000 died from heart disease, 165,000 died from pneumonia and respiratory infections, 36,900 died from asthma and 21,400 died from lung cancer.  Heart disease, the #1 cause of death in the world, is often caused by smoking and second-hand smoking.

Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, according to the study.  Worldwide, roughly 40% of children are exposed to second-hand smoke, which has increased their risk for many illnesses, such as asthma, pneumonia, infections and sudden infant death syndrome.  The study revealed that half of all deaths from second-hand smoke are in adult women and 28% are in children.

Not all's bad in the world.  There's some reason for hope: smoking bans can dramatically reduce deaths caused by second-hand smoke.  More than 40 countries have enacted some kind of smoking ban and in the U.S., 35 states have smoke-free laws.  The smoke-free bans drop heart attack rates by 10% to 20% in the first year after the bans are enacted.  Further, the smoke-free laws encourage smokers to quit and make thei homes smoke-free.

Why is there cause of hope? Smoking bans protect only seven percent of the world's population.  This suggests that there is a lot of work to be done.  Enacting new smoking bans and expanding the scope of existing  bans could dramatically reduce the 603,000 deaths caused by second-hand smoke.

That's right...I hate smoking.  Deprive the rights of smokers...YES!  When smokers commit slow suicide, we all pay.  The annual medical cost of treating smoking-related illnesses would make our national deficit look like peanuts!  (perhaps a slight exaggeration).  Aside from the medical costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, second-hand smoke kills more than half a billion people every year.  These are innocent persons, including many children, who took care of themselves.

New York State (believe or not) has been a leader in enacting a statewide ban on smoking in public venues, such as restaurants and bars.  New Yorkers are spoiled b/c such bans are not as extensive in scope in other states. Chicagoans, for example, smoke freely in bars and restaurants. States and countries should follow New York's lead by enacting smoke-free bans in all public facilities.

We can never hope to eradicate smoking, but we should be able to reduce the risks of second-hand smoke.  Smoke-free bans are the answer!





Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke.


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