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New Warnings About Tobacco Smoke and Children

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

A new study provides another warning of the dangers from cigarette smoke around children.

This was one of the largest studies ever of the risks to people who breathe tobacco smoke in the air. Experts call this "passive smoking." Many studies have shown increased risks for lung cancer and other diseases. But few studies have involved people who seemed healthy when the research began.

Doctor Paolo Vineis of Imperial College, London, led the new study. The British Medical Journal published the report.

More than one hundred twenty thousand people provided information about their history of exposure to tobacco smoke. They might have worked with smokers, or had parents who smoked. The people were from ten countries in Europe. All said they had never smoked or had stopped for at least ten years.

The study followed their health for an average of seven years. During that time, ninety-seven people developed lung cancer. Twenty developed upper-respiratory cancers. And fourteen died from the lung disease emphysema.

The report compares lung cancer rates in people who had been around tobacco smoke as children. Those who had breathed it for many hours a day were three-and-a-half times more likely to get lung cancer than those who reported no exposure. Yet the risk was still one-and-a-half times higher in adults who had breathed tobacco smoke as children even a few times a week.

The study also found that former smokers had a greater risk of lung cancer than people who never smoked. This link was limited to exposure at work. The report says former smokers may be more at risk from low levels of tobacco smoke. One possible explanation is that they already have damaged cells.

Smoking causes many disorders. It is the main cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the world's leading cause of cancer deaths.

Last March, Ireland became the first country to ban smoking in all workplaces. That includes eating and drinking establishments. Since then, other governments have also moved to limit smoking in public.

Italy put measures into effect last month. And this week smoking became illegal in many public places in Cuba, known for its cigars.

Smoking is banned in many public areas in the United States. Smoking in bars and restaurants is against the law in a few states and cities, including New York City.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Gwen Outen.