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Global Initiative To Protect Children From Secondhand Smoke

Effort Focuses on Dangers of Parental Smoking in Homes and Cars

GENEVA, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- It's a staggering statistic: 700 million children - almost half of the world's youth - breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke. People who smoke in confined spaces like the home or the car subject others to a dangerous mix of toxins including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and cyanide, even when the windows are open. Second-hand smoke exposes children to chronic health risks:

-- Increases a baby's risk of dying suddenly from unexplained causes

-- Contributes to low birth weight in newborns and harms lung development

-- Causes bronchitis and pneumonia in young adults

-- Increases the risk of ear infections, asthma, coughing and wheezing

among school-aged children

These health threats underscore the need for parents to protect the children from secondhand smoke. In the first global initiative of its kind, the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and members around the world will lead an initiative to promote smoke-free environments for children. "I love my smoke-free childhood" launches on World Cancer Day, 4 February, with these messages for parents:

-- Avoid smoking at home or in a car

-- Caution children to stay away from secondhand smoke and places that

allow smoking

-- Teach children there is no safe level of secondhand smoke

-- Do not smoke while pregnant or near someone who is pregnant

-- Use a smoke-free daycare center

-- If you are a smoker, ask your doctor what you can do to stop

-- Become a role model for your child - do not smoke

To back these messages, UICC is publishing a 40-page expert report, "Protecting our children against secondhand smoke".

"I love my smoke-free childhood" is the first focus within the World Cancer Campaign, a five-year cancer-prevention effort launched on World Cancer Day 2007. The Campaign offers parents simple steps to share with children to prevent cancer later in life. (

"Forty percent of cancers are preventable through healthy habits. The first step toward prevention is education, starting with parents and children. Every success story means fewer lives lost," says Isabel Mortara, UICC executive director. "Tobacco-related cancers lead the list of preventable deaths and hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked die each year from diseases caused by secondhand smoke. That's why this initiative is so important."

In addition to targeting individuals, the UICC encourages decision makers to put cancer on the public agenda. A growing number of countries have passed 100% smoke-free legislation, banning smoking in all enclosed public places without exception. Ireland was the first country to do so in 2004 followed by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Uruguay, Bermuda, Bhutan and Iran. Puerto Rico and several U.S. states and cities have also enacted such bans.

"Countries with 100% smoke-free laws should be commended for their legacy to healthier families. In these nations the percentage of children exposed to secondhand smoke has decreased over time," says Dr. Franco Cavalli, UICC president. "While this trend is encouraging, this approach alone will not protect children from secondhand smoke. That's why educating parents is so crucial."

On World Cancer Day, the UICC will launch a global competition to design a sign for a smoke free environment. The goal is to recognize a universally "smoke free" sign for homes and cars. Individuals and creative agencies may apply. The winning artwork will be announced on 5 May and awarded $5,000 US. For further details contact


The International Union Against Cancer: Founded in 1933, the UICC is the world's only truly global consortium of cancer-fighting organizations with 300 members in 90 countries spanning Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. (

Protecting our children against secondhand smoke: This expert report, sets out the health consequences to children of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and makes detailed recommendations on protecting children in homes, cars, daycare, schools and other public places. Authors include Dr. Jonathan Samet, senior scientific editor of the 2004 and 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's reports on smoking and health. Copies available on request (

The World Cancer Congress 2008: World Cancer Congress offers access to the world's leaders in cancer control. The next Congress will convene in Geneva, 27-31 August. The meeting offers new research on new topics as well as ongoing evidence-based solutions to cancer control. (

GLOBALink: The UICC's tobacco control network offers resources for reporters and provides an RSS feed with tobacco news from around the world. (

SOURCE International Union Against Cancer
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