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World Cancer Day 2008
I love my smoke-free childhood

Only 100% smoke-free environments protect your children and family from the very serious health problems that breathing secondhand smoke causes. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home. Demand that all indoor public places be 100% smoke-free - International Union against Cancer

Children deserve to breathe smoke-free

Washington, D.C., February 4, 2008 (PAHO)—Some 700 million children-nearly half of all children worldwide-breath air contaminated with tobacco smoke. Homes and cars are the main places where they become victims of secondhand smoke. People who smoke in these and other indoor spaces expose others, and especially children, to a dangerous mix of pollutants including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that linger even when windows are open.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals of which more than 60 are known carcinogens. Infants and children are more vulnerable to these chemicals than adults, for several reasons. Children inhale more contaminants per unit of body weight than adults. And chemicals remain in children's bodies longer because they do not process them as fast as adults.

Exposure of babies and children to secondhand smoke is known to increase the risk of:

  • Low birth weight
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Ear infections
  • Poor lung development
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Asthma, cough, and wheezing

These serious threats underscore the important message of World Cancer Day 2008: that parents and other adults have the duty to protect children from the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke.

Protecting children

In the first global initiative of its kind, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is joining forces with the International Union against Cancer, a global consortium of anti-cancer groups, to launch a major communication, education and awareness-raising campaign to promote smoke-free environments for children.

With the theme "I love my smoke-free childhood," the campaign is being launched on World Cancer Day, Feb. 4. Among the campaign's key messages:

  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Don't smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or your car.
  • Teach your children to stay away from tobacco smoke.
  • Keep children away from restaurants or other indoor places that allow smoking.
  • Don't smoke if you are pregnant or near someone who is.
  • Use a smoke-free day-care center.
  • If you are a smoker, ask you doctor what you can do to stop.
  • Be a role model for your kids: don't smoke.

What parents do has a critical effect on their children's health and their future risk of cancer. Parents have a special duty to protect small children, who are less able than adults or older children to distance themselves from smokers. This means they are more likely to be exposed to more intense levels of secondhand smoke or for longer periods.

"This is the central message of the global campaign we're launching today, thanks to the leadership of the International Union against Cancer, PAHO, and other organizations around the world," said Dr. Silvana Luciani, project manager in PAHO's Noncommunicable Diseases Unit. "Working together in the Americas, we will raise public awareness of the health risks and dangers presented by secondhand smoke. These efforts will help us advance in the fight against cancer and for health in general, and contribute to a healthier new generation."

For more information and campaign materials for World Cancer Day 2008 visit: www.worldcancercampaign.org.

Related PAHO Publication:

The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3699.