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Smoke-Free Policies Linked to Many Health Benefits

Group points to improved respiratory symptoms, possible lower prevalence of adult smoking

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Smoke-free policies -- such as legislation to protect individuals from secondhand smoke -- can lead to health improvements including reduction of respiratory symptoms, and may help reduce adult and youth tobacco use, according to a report published in the July issue of The Lancet Oncology.

John P. Pierce, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego, and Maria E. Leon, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, writing on behalf of an IARC working group that met in the spring of 2008, discuss a number of statements about the possible effects of smoke-free policies. They organize these findings by whether evidence is "sufficient" for a causal association or "strong" for an association with limited evidence of causality.

The group found sufficient evidence that smoke-free policies substantially decrease secondhand smoke exposure and, in workers, decrease respiratory symptoms; smoke-free workplaces lower cigarette use in smokers; and smoke-free home policies lower children's secondhand smoke exposure and decrease adult smoking. They found strong evidence that smoke-free workplaces decrease the prevalence of adult smoking, smoke-free policies decrease tobacco use in youths and smoke-free legislation lowers heart disease morbidity.

"On the basis of the evidence reviewed, the Working Group recommended that governments enact and implement smoke-free policies that conform to the guidelines for Article 8 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control," the authors write. "Not only do these policies achieve their aim of protecting the health of non-smokers by decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke, they also have many effects on smoking behavior, which compound the expected health benefits."

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