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Smokefree Homes Key To Smokefree Youth

Embargoed until 12 noon, Friday 30 May 2003

Smokefree Homes Key To Smokefree Youth

Study reveals youth exposed daily to second-hand smoke at home
are seven times more likely to smoke

Parents are being urged to quit smoking if they want their children to grow up as non-smokers. The call follows the release of a study that found that over 40 percent of young people were exposed to second-hand smoke at home. Those exposed on a daily basis were seven times more likely to be regular smokers than those who were not exposed.

The data, from the Health Sponsorship Council’s national Youth Lifestyle Study 2002, were analysed by researchers from the University of Otago’s Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group. Lead researcher Helen Darling and supervisor Tony Reeder analysed data from nearly 3,500 students, aged 13-17 years, and found that 13 per cent smoked daily.

Students were asked on how many days during the past week they had been exposed to second-hand smoke at home. The risk of regular smoking by youth increased significantly with the number of days that they were exposed.

Tony Reeder said the results showed a strong and disturbing link between exposure to second-hand smoke in the home and youth smoking.

“Those exposed every day to second-hand smoke at home were seven times more likely to smoke regularly than those who were not exposed.”

Dr Reeder said that as well as the role-modelling aspect, young people’s health was being put at risk by exposure to the chemicals in tobacco smoke.

“A lit cigarette is like a little toxic waste dump on fire. Much of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker, but released into the air around them for other people to inhale. It is not practical to expect young people to leave the family home every time someone lights up.”

He encouraged parents who found it difficult to quit smoking to at least step outside to have their cigarette.

“Reducing the rates of adult smoking in the home will protect youth from the direct risks of second-hand smoke, and may also help reduce the number of young people who start cigarette smoking.”

The study was supported by the New Zealand Cancer Society, Health Sponsorship Council, The Quit Group, the Ministry of Health, and the University of Otago.


Second-hand tobacco smoke causes death and a variety of diseases.

It is estimated to be responsible for around 347 deaths in New Zealand each year. Around 100 of these deaths are attributable to exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace .

Exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke is responsible for over 3,700 hospital admissions for heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses; 27 000 GP consultations and 14,000 episodes of childhood asthma .

What is second-hand smoke?

When tobacco is lit, thousands of chemicals are released in the smoke. Many of them are highly toxic. Two-thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker. This is called ‘sidestream smoke’. The smoke exhaled by the smoker (mainstream smoke) mixes with the ‘sidestream smoke’ to form ‘second-hand smoke’.

Why is it so harmful?

Vigorous scientific studies over the past 20 years have established without doubt that inhaling second-hand smoke increases the risk of suffering lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, asthma, respiratory illnesses, glue ear, cot death and eye and nose irritations.

It is estimated that in New Zealand one person dies every day from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Who is at risk from second-hand smoke?

Everyone who breathes in second-hand smoke is putting their health at risk. Children and people who work in smoky environments are particularly at risk. Young children have smaller, more delicate lungs than adults and are therefore at greater risk of smoke-related diseases compared to other people because of their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Bar, restaurant and sports-club staff are also very vulnerable as many are exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke daily. Hospitality workers have a higher lifetime risk of heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and respiratory diseases, compared to other people because of their exposure to second-hand smoke.

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