Researchers conducted by the World Health Organization recently found out that almost 40 per cent of children are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis. Furthermore, one-third of the adult population is also affected by regular exposure to second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is among the number cause of death, taking almost 600,000 lives every year.

Deaths due to second hand smoke top the list of the 5.1 million smoking-related deaths in a year.

The said study conducted by WHO (World Health Organization) appears in The Lancet medical journal. The research is said to be the first study to focus on secondhand smoke and its global impact. Its focus is on 192 countries that either have smoking restrictions or none.

According to some scientists, passive smoking causes more than 600,000 deaths from different illnesses—379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 from asthma and lastly, 21,400 deaths from lung cancer, all of which are annual figures. Combined together, they make one percent of the world’s total death every year.

The research team, spearheaded by Armando Peruga, WHO program manager for the organization’s Tobacco-Free Initiative, found out that two-thirds of these passive deaths happen in countries in South Asia and Africa. In addition, the researchers wrote that most of the children exposed to secondhand smoke have greater tendency of acquiring contagious diseases, putting them into a more dangerous situation. Children who are exposed to their parents’ cigarette smoke develop smaller lungs as compared to those whose parents don’t smoke. The children are at a higher risk of acquiring asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and worse, sudden infant death syndrome. Because of these alarming findings, Heather Wipfli and Jonathan Samet, both from the University of Southern California urged families to be more actively involved to stop smoking at home. According to Samet and Wipfli, families from other countries have been supporting their smoke-free home campaign. They added, however, that this is still far from being universal.

A striking and alarming figure of 40 per cent children, 33 per cent non-smoking men and 35 percent non-smoking women were exposed to the dangers carried by cigarette smokers. In addition, the researchers have found that deaths in adult were consistent in most countries while child deaths due to secondhand smoke were more prominent in poor countries.

Figures show that secondhand smoke has greatly affected women, killing more than 280,000. Women are twice more likely to be affected by second-hand smoke than men. This is true in most countries.

The sadder part is, with all these numbers shown; only 7.4 per cent of the world population presently lives in countries with implemented anti-smoking laws. These laws, however, are not seriously enforced. However, it was noted that in places where smoke-free laws are strongly adhered to, risks of second-hand smoke deaths have been dramatically cut down to a whopping 90 per cent. This contributes to reducing the risk of secondhand smoking deaths in the country by 60 percent.