Each year, the International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) hosts World Environmental Health Day to encourage global recognition of critical environmental health issues. Past themes have focused on raising awareness about protecting children’s environmental health, addressing environmental health inequalities, and preparing for emerging environmental health risks and challenges.
Launched in 2011 during an IFEH Council meeting in Indonesia, this observance already has a rich tradition of multinational collaboration, engaging a diverse range of agencies from the public and private sectors throughout the past six years.
Monday, September 26, 2016 marked the sixth annual World Environmental Health Day, ushering in a more finite theme: the global tobacco pandemic. Formally supported by nine nations, including the U.S., this campaign highlighted the adverse health risks resulting from tobacco products, while urging global action to lower tobacco usage and promote smoke-free environments.
To advance these aims in the U.S., the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) led a coordinated effort engaging dozens of organizations, including NACCHO, to rally around an emerging and lesser-known tobacco-related health issue: second- and third-hand smoke. As a group, these organizations cast a wide net across their various communication channels informing diverse audiences about the harmful effects of tobacco use, particularly for non-smokers, and the specific health risks caused by second- and third-hand smoke. They also promoted initiatives and resources designed to decrease the existence of second- and third-hand smoke and protect its most vulnerable and likely victims, including children and older adults.
In an effort to support local health departments (LHDs) and other partner agencies with community outreach and education on the dangers of second- and third-hand smoke, NACCHO compiled the most useful facts, tools, and other information shared during this year’s World Environmental Health Day. First, NEHA’s #WorldEHDay Twitter Chat, shed a lot of knowledge on the origin, health risks, and national impact of second- and third-hand smoke from a number of reliable sources including nonprofit, government, and academic agencies at the national, state, and local levels. All of the relevant tweets posted during the chat and throughout the day can be viewed by clicking here.
Second, there were a number of illuminating statistics shared by NEHA and other partner organizations, emphasizing the adverse impact of cigarette smoke on non-smokers through second- and third-hand smoke. Listed below are a selection of the most poignant data points:
- Second-hand smoke causes 41,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
- Since 1964, an estimated 2.5 million deaths are attributed in the U.S. to health problems caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Exposure risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is 2.5 times greater for infants exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Second-hand smoke is responsible for 40-60% of asthma cases in children between two months and two years of age.
- Nicotine, the most abundant organic compound emitted from cigarette smoke, deposits almost entirely on indoor surfaces and can last for weeks to months.
- Infants and young children are more likely than adults to be in contact with third-hand smoke nicotine residue through skin exposure, dust inhalation, and ingestion as they crawl and explore their homes or a car where someone is or has been smoking.
Finally, NEHA and several partnering agencies provided a listing of organizational webpages and other documents on the topic of second- and third-hand smoke. Listed below are the direct links for a selection of resources, categorized by the publishing organization and the resource type.
National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
- Webpages: Tobacco
- Policy Statements: Indoor Air Quality and Public Health
- Model Practices: Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs at the Local Level
- Webinars: Creating and Enforcing Smoke-Free Multi-unit Housing, Creating and EnforcingTobacco-Free Environments at Colleges and Universities
National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)
American Public Health Association
- Infographic: Live Tobacco Free
- Policy Statements: Tobacco-Free School Environments, Smoke-Free Indoor Air
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Factsheet: Second-Hand Smoke
- Webpages: Second-Hand Smoke
- Report: Disparities in Nonsmokers’ Exposure to Second-hand Smoke