Today, February 4, 2008, has been designated World Cancer Day by the World Health Organization and the International Union Against Cancer. This year’s theme is I Love My Smoke-Free Childhood. As a pediatric oncologist, I have to say, I’m 100% behind this idea. Second hand smoke is a major pediatric health problem. 700 million children - almost half of the world's youth - regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke. Second hand smoke exposure leads to chronic health risks:
· Increases a baby's risk of dying suddenly from unexplained causes (SIDS)
· Contributes to low birth weight in newborns and harms lung development
· Causes bronchitis and pneumonia in young adults
· Increases risk of ear infections, asthma, coughing and wheezing among school-aged children
Facts like these underlie smoking cessation laws sweeping the country. I’m proud that my home state of Maryland just recently enacted one.
Gregory Reaman, MD, the chairman of the Children’s Oncology Group, of which I am a member, said this: "As the world’s largest pediatric cancer research collaborative, the Children’s Oncology Group stands firmly with the world’s leading cancer organizations, demanding that all children have the opportunity to be raised in an environment where they are not exposed to the effects of smoking and second-hand smoke."
The fight against second hand smoke has a fascinating history. The first successful class action suit brought against the tobacco industry was brought by attorneys Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt in October 1991 in Dade County Circuit Court (Miami). The suit sought damages for diseases and deaths caused to flight attendants by exposure to second hand tobacco smoke in airline cabins. One element of the settlement of this case was the establishment of a not-for-profit medical research foundation with funding by the tobacco industry of $300 million. The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has already made dozens of awards, including one that was critical to the early success of my laboratory.
If you want to add your voice to those supporting the effort to eradicate tobacco smoke, click here.