A new study conducted by the American Cancer Society has found that the health consequences of exposure to secondhand smoke are even more far-reaching than we thought.
After following more than 70,000 US adults – who never smoked themselves – from 1992 to 2014, the team of researchers discovered that people who reported being around cigarette smokers during any point of their childhood were 21 percent more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than those that had not, after adjusting for the possible influence of a myriad of other health and lifestyle factors.
Those who lived with a smoker for their entire childhood (defined as a stretch of 16 to 18 years) were 31 percent more likely to die from this severe respiratory disease.
These results, now published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, are the first to indicate that coming into contact with secondhand smoke (SHS) during the crucial years of childhood and adolescent development can lead to fatal COPD later in life, though past studies have already linked exposure in one’s early years to the onset of COPD as an adult.
“The evidence, with results from this study, suggest childhood exposure to SHS may be the first step in a chain of events that starts with poor lung development and asthma in childhood, leading to development of COPD, and ultimately death from COPD,” the authors wrote.
“Although the analysis focused on mortality outcomes, it should be noted that an association between childhood SHS and adult COPD mortality implies that childhood SHS likely has effects on respiratory disease morbidity in adulthood.”