Passive Smoking: Death

Department of Health written question – answered on 2nd July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what their assessment is of the number of people who have died from passive smoking in England in each of the last five years.

Photo of Lord Prior of Brampton Lord Prior of Brampton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health

Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard. More than 50 carcinogens have been identified in secondhand smoke.

The report of the United States Surgeon General titled The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke concluded that secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke. The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in children. Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer. Legislation to stop smoking in vehicles carrying children will come into force in England on 1 October 2015.

The report of the Royal College of Physicians titled Going smoke-free: The medical case for clean air in the home, at work and in public places included estimates that secondhand smoke exposure caused approximately 12,200 deaths in the United Kingdom in 2003, and that the majority of these deaths occurred as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. These estimates were made prior to the introduction of smokefree legislation in England in 2007. Over the past decade, the proportion of smokers who say that they do not smoke in the home has increased.

The evidence is clear that smokefree legislation in England has had beneficial effects on health, as set out in the report The Impact of smokefree legislation in England: evidence review which was published alongside the “Tobacco Control Plan for England” in March 2011. The reports referred to have already been placed in the Library.

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