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Welcome, Introductory Remarks, and Charge

March 5, 2007: Reducing Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Dana Shelton, Associate Director for Policy, CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, and Executive Secretary for the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health (ICSH)

Dana Shelton, Associate Director for Policy in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) and Executive Secretary for the ICSH welcomed participants and wished Rear Admiral (RADM) and Acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu, a happy birthday.

RADM Kenneth Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., Acting U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

RADM Moritsugu began by welcoming the new public members to the ICSH. These members include: Jack Henningfield, Ph.D., Vice President, Research and Policy, Pinney Associates; Jane Moore, Ph.D., R.D., Manager, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Programs, Oregon Public Health Services, Oregon Department of Human Services; and Thomas Schenk, Ph.D., Corporate Epidemiologist, General Motors Health Care Initiatives, General Motors Corporation. Following the introduction of new members, all committee members were asked to introduce themselves.

RADM Moritsugu began by reviewing the major conclusions of the 1986 and 2006 Surgeon General's Reports on secondhand smoke. The 2006 report, titled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, followed the only other SGR to focus on the effects of secondhand smoke by 20 years. The 1986 report, titled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking, concluded that secondhand smoke exposure causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and that children who have parents that smoke are more likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms than children who live with nonsmoking parents. This 1986 report also found that separating smokers and nonsmokers in the same air space may reduce—but not eliminate—nonsmokers' secondhand smoke exposure.

The 2006 report presents several new conclusions based on the mounting evidence of the harmfulness of secondhand smoke exposure. This report concludes that—

  • Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults
  • Secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke suffer from a range of health problems including sudden infant death syndrome, more severe asthma, slowed lung growth and acute respiratory infections
  • There is NO safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and breathing even a little smoke can be harmful to nonsmokers' health

The report further concluded that homes and workplaces are the major settings where nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke and that the only full protection from exposure is by completely eliminating smoking in indoor places.

RADM Moritsugu introduced the video Secondhand Smoke: Triumphs and Tragedies that was created to "put a human face" on the problems faced by individuals impacted by secondhand smoke exposure. The video was shown at the press conference when the 2006 SGR was released.

Following the video, RADM Moritsugu discussed the impact that the Surgeon General's Report has had on public health since its release in June, 2006. The report has convinced many policymakers and business leaders that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard that needs to be addressed. Two examples of this include the Marriott and Westin hotel chains announcing that all of their U.S. hotels would go smoke-free and the Lockheed Martin Corporation announcing that it was eliminating the use of tobacco products on its campuses across the country. In addition, nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted smoke-free laws in 2006 and at least 24 other states are considering adopting such laws during the 2007 legislative session. At the local level, many communities are passing 100 percent smoke-free laws making workplaces, restaurants and bars completely smoke-free. Finally, nations throughout the world are increasingly adopting comprehensive smoke-free laws as well.

Although clearly progress has been made, RADM Moritsugu warned Committee members that there was still much to be done before all Americans are protected from the negative impacts of exposure to secondhand smoke. He provided a couple of examples of ways that our efforts could be expanded, including:

  • Increased efforts to address disparities in exposure, especially among children
  • Inclusion of secondhand smoke messages into routine advice provided by health care providers
  • Adoption of tobacco-free campus and conference policies
  • Expansion of smoke-free policies to include casinos and multi-unit housing

RADM Moritsugu closed his remarks by providing a charge to the Committee to identify concrete next steps to capitalize on the momentum and ensure protection of ALL Americans by engaging smokers and nonsmokers in the effort to reduce secondhand smoke exposure.

Following his remarks, RADM Moritsugu introduced Matthew McKenna, Director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.

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