The recent release of the 2009 Tobacco Use Survey has indicated that while the overall prevalence of smoking is declining, exposure to second-hand smoke continues to pose a significant health threat to some households.
Only 22% of New Zealanders between the ages of 15 and 64 are smoking, the survey reported. In the last year, nearly 22,000 people quit the habit and were still smoke-free after half a year. Unfortunately, data also showed that 1 in every 16 non-smokers continues to be exposed to other people’s smoke in cars and in their homes. This was especially common among Maori non-smokers, who were 1.7-time more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke at home, and twice as likely to be exposed in cars.
Exposure to second-hand smoke causes respiratory and other diseases, and can lead to premature death. In children, it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death), chest infections, severe asthma and ear problems. In adults it can lead to lung cancer, heart disease and an elevated risk of strokes.
“We’ve made great progress in many areas, but in the very place where our children are most vulnerable we are still exposing them to serious harm”, said Associate Health Minister, Tariana Turia. “I urge every household, every whanau, to help protect our young ones. Make your home and you car smoke-free; it can save the lives of those you love”.