Researchers cite 'considerable progress' because of changing social norms
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, Sept. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Four out of five U.S. homes now ban smoking inside, federal health officials reported Thursday.
No-smoking-in-the-house rules jumped considerably in the past two decades -- from 43 percent in 1992-93 to 83 percent in 2010-11, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Homes of nonsmokers have become even less tolerant of cigarettes, with 91.4 percent banning tobacco use indoors compared to about 58 percent roughly 20 years ago, the report said.
And nearly half of homes with smokers prohibit the practice, a fivefold jump over two decades.
"Considerable progress has been made in the percentage of households that have smoke-free rules," said lead author Brian King, a senior scientist in CDC's Office of Smoking and Health.
Despite that progress, much remains to be done, he said, noting that only 46 percent of homes with smokers ban the practice.
The findings, published Sept. 5 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, are based on nationwide tobacco-use surveys.
King said that the increase in smoke-free homes is good news for children and others who suffer because of secondhand smoke.
"We know that secondhand smoke exposure causes asthma attacks among adults and children. [Cigarette smoke contains] over 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are toxic and 70 of which cause cancer," King said.
Increases in smoke-free homes were seen in every state and the District of Columbia, the researchers said.
Kentucky still has the lowest percentage of smoke-free homes -- 69.4 percent -- but that's nearly three times as many as it had in 1992-93. And Utah still has the highest percentage -- nearly 94 percent, up from 69.4 two decades earlier.
"The primary factor is a change in social norms," King said.
"Since 2002 there has been a marked change in the number of states that have comprehensive smoke-free policies," he said. "We know that these smoke-free policies also influence the adoption of smoke-free areas in private areas like homes."
Also, attitudes among nonsmokers have changed, King said. "People no longer see it as acceptable to expose nonsmokers to secondhand smoke," he said.
Vince Willmore, vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, was enthusiastic about the findings.
"It is terrific news for the health of America's kids and families that there has been such a huge increase in the percentage of households with voluntary smoke-free home rules, with the biggest increase in households with smokers," he said.
Opponents of laws that require smoke-free workplaces and public places argued that such laws would lead to more smoking, and more secondhand smoke exposure, in the home, he said.
"But this study indicates the opposite has happened. In fact, more homes have become smoke-free as the public has become more aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke and experienced the benefits of smoke-free public places," Willmore said.
Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association, said she's pleased that so many homes don't allow smoking.
"That's key, because 41,000 people die from secondhand smoke exposure every year," she said.
Sward doesn't think that all the news in the report is good, however. "We are very troubled that in households where there is at least one adult smoker that more than half still smoke inside," she said.
"That is particularly troubling for the smokers' families, especially children, because it puts them at risk for serious health problems like asthma and sudden infant death syndrome," Sward said.
"Every smoker needs to quit," she said. "But until they quit, they need to smoke outside and away from their family."
For more on secondhand smoke, visit the American Lung Association.
SOURCES: Brian King, Ph.D., senior scientist, Office of Smoking and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Erika Sward, assistant vice president, national advocacy, American Lung Association; Vince Willmore, vice president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; Sept. 5, 2014, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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