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One non-smoker dies from secondhand smoke exposure for every 52 smokers
A recently published study examined global data on secondhand smoke (SHS)-attributable deaths, and revealed that every 52.3 smokers were associated with 1 death in non-smoker.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million non-smokers are killed by SHS worldwide every year. However, the health impact of SHS is often underestimated by the public. A group of researchers established the Secondhand Smoke Index (SHS Index) to indicate the number of smokers associated with the premature death of 1 non-smoker, aiming to raise the public awareness of the scale of harms of smoking. Despite the favourable change in the SHS Index from 31.3 in 1990 to 52.3 in 2016, which reflects the effectiveness of tobacco control measures, the actual number of smokers and SHS-attributable deaths increased. This warrants advances in the smoke-free measures to protect non-smokers.

There are over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, including hundreds of harmful chemicals and about 70 cancer-causing agents. They affect the health of non-smokers exposed to SHS, where children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable. In Hong Kong, a densely populated city, non-smokers are easily expose to SHS at home and outside home. A local survey in 2010/11 found that 33.2% of Hong Kong adolescents were exposed to SHS at home and 55.3% to SHS outside home, and they were more likely to have persistent cough and phlegm.

COSH urges the Hong Kong Government to make reference to the innovative measures implemented in other regions, such as the car smoking ban in the United Kingdom and home smoking ban in Thailand, and tighten tobacco control measures to safeguard citizens’ health.

Estimated Worldwide Mortality Attributed to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke Exposure, 1990-2016 (2020);
Secondhand Smoke From Multiple Sources, Thirdhand Smoke and Respiratory Symptoms in Hong Kong Adolescents (2018)
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