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Secondhand Smoke Takes Big Illness, Expense Toll

THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Secondhand smoke has a substantial health and economic impact, especially among black Americans, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 12,000 adults to assess the number of deaths, the years of potential life lost and the value of lost productivity caused by secondhand smoke in 2006.

That year, more than 41,000 American adults and nearly 900 infants died of secondhand smoke-related diseases, according to a journal news release.

The study found that blacks had significantly higher levels of exposure to secondhand smoke than whites. The highest exposure was among black men aged 45 to 64 (nearly 64 percent), followed by black men aged 20 to 44 (nearly 63 percent).

Black women aged 20 to 44 had a higher exposure rate (nearly 63 percent) than any other women.

In 2006, black infants accounted for 24 percent to 36 percent of deaths caused by mothers smoking during pregnancy, even though they accounted for only 13 percent of the infant population.

The toll from just two adult and four infant conditions linked to secondhand smoke in 2006 was 42,000 deaths, 600,000 years of potential life lost and $6.6 billon in lost productivity. Blacks and Hispanics had the highest value of lost productivity per death.

"With the high rates of smoking prevalence and the resulting high rates of [secondhand smoke] exposure in the United States and in many parts of the world, interventions need to be designed that target particularly vulnerable groups and that reduce the health and economic burden of smoking on smokers and nonsmokers alike," wrote Wendy Max, of the Institute for Health & Aging in San Francisco, and colleagues.

The study was published online Sept. 20 in the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about secondhand smoke.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, news release, Sept. 20, 2012

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