The US Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, made a strong condemnation of secondhand smoke, saying a non-smoker's health is harmed when he/she breathes in smoke from other people's tobacco. He said that secondhand smoke is not just a nuisance, science has clearly shown it is a serious health hazard.

According to the Surgeon General's 670-page report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General, tens of thousands of Americans die each year as a result of involuntary smoking. Over 126 million people in the USA are regularly exposed to passive smoke. He said passive smoking causes lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and a host of other illnesses. 20% of American children regularly breathe in secondhand smoke at home. The report says such children are at a greater risk of suffering from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, ear infections and other illnesses.

According to Carmona, a non-smoker who is regularly exposed to secondhand smoke is 30% more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer than a non-smoker who is not exposed.

(Involuntary smoking = breathing secondhand smoke = passive smoking)

According to the report, having separate areas for smokers, as well as special ventilations systems, do not completely protect non-smokers from the effects of secondhand smoke. It urges authorities to ban smoking in buildings and public places.

In fact, in America today many state and local authorities have some of the strictest laws in the world.

Carmona says his duty is to publicize the report. The power to bring in new laws rests in the hands of legislators, he said.

The last time a Surgeon General issued a report on passive smoking was in 1986, when smoking rates in the USA were much higher. Then, it said that secondhand smoke was responsible for 3,000 deaths a hear. Now, with much lower smoking rates, secondhand smoke is blamed for over 35,000 deaths each year.

Some bars, restaurants and advocates claiming to represent the rights of smokers, say that banning smoking in all public areas, which would include all bars and restaurants, would be bad for business as smokers would not longer come to them. Others say that They don't go to them because of the smoke, and would probably start patronising them if they were smoke-free.

Copies of The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General are available on the Surgeon General's Web site at: surgeongeneral/library/secondhandsmoke.

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