Surgeon General: 'Second Hand Smoke Kills'
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. government's top doctor says the debate is over, second hand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard that leads to disease and premature death in children and non-smoking adults. "Second hand smoke kills people," stated Surgeon General Richard Carmona, citing a report issued this week.
Among the key points in the new 670-page study is that tens of thousands of Americans die each year as a result of involuntary smoking. Over 126 million people in the United States are regularly exposed to passive smoke. He said passive smoking causes lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and a host of other illnesses.
"One of the fastest-growing groups of lung-cancer patients are individuals in their early 40s who are non-smokers," according to Karen Giammicchio, R.N., Oncology Genetics/High Risk Coordinator at The Cancer Institute at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
The likely culprit for lung cancer in these cases is exposure to an environmental risk factor, such as second hand smoke, Giammicchio says. "We know that all cancer is genetic, but there must be environmental exposure -- a gene-environment interaction -- to trigger cancer," she says. Second hand smoke is a key lung cancer catalyst.
"Smoke is toxic and full of poisons," says Charles Baum, M.D., Vice President of Health Affairs for the suburban Chicago-based Alexian Brothers Hospital Network. "There doesn't need to be massive levels of exposure when combined with a genetic predisposition to trigger cancer."
The Surgeon General's new report is providing additional evidence for supporters of smoking bans at work and in public places. Baum is a longtime advocate of smoking bans and increased cigarette taxes to discourage smoking and to improve community health. He actively supported a recent effort to ban smoking in public places and to hike licensing fees for cigarette retailers in several Chicago suburban communities, and separate measures that will ban smoking in public places across Cook County, Illinois, beginning in 2007. He wants to see a similar ban enacted statewide.
Experts with the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network encourages those who have been exposed to secondhand smoke -- or other environmental risks associated with lung cancer -- to visit their doctor and to undergo a lung scan. They offer the same advice to those who smoke, or have smoked with a family history of lung cancer, stating that early detection is imperative for long-term survival rates and curability.
Recently Alexian Brothers introduced the Alexian Lung Scan, a state-of- the-art CT screening that can detect the presence of tiny irregularities or nodules that are too small to be seen in a conventional X-ray. The lung scan, which lasts 20 seconds, identifies these abnormalities. A spirometry screening for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is included with the lung scan. Alexian is providing the test free to the first 100 people who complete one of the network's smoking cessation programs.
The Cancer Institute at Alexian Brothers is operated by Alexian Brothers Hospital Network, which also includes Alexian Brothers Medical Center and Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital in Elk Grove Village, St. Alexius Medical Center and Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.