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Teens who do not Smoke continue to be Exposed to Secondhand Smoke, Study Finds

Update Date: Jan 11, 2016 09:39 AM EST

Although smoking rates in teens have continued to decline in the United States over the past few years, a new study is reporting that almost half of the non-smoking teen population gets exposed to secondhand smoke.

"The findings weren't really a surprise as much as a call for public health action," study author Brian King, a deputy director for research translation in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health, said reported by HealthDay. "The continuing research [on secondhand smoke] really helps us put a finger on who's exposed and in what location."

For this study, the researchers analyzed data on at least 18,000 teens from middle and high school in 2013 to determine whether or not non-smoking teens were exposed to tobacco smoke. Exposure was defined as being near smoke at least once over the past week.

They found that 48 percent of the participants stated that they were exposed to secondhand smoke. In terms of where exposure took place, 16 percent said at home, 15 percent said in the car, 17 percent said at school, 27 percent said during work and 35 percent said in public areas - both indoors and outdoors.

When the experts compared teens from homes with no smoking rules to teens from home with strict smoking rules, they found that the first group was nine times more likely to be exposed than the latter. The researchers also noted that in areas where there are smoke-free laws, secondhand smoke exposure declined.

"These findings are concerning because the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure," lead author Israel Agaku said reported by CBS DFW.

Secondhand smoke has been tied to health conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory problems in children. In adults, secondhand smoke has been tied to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

"We've made great strides in protecting adults from secondhand smoke ... and the health effects have been dramatic," Dr. Normal Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association who was not a part of the study, said. "So now it's time to protect kids from secondhand smoke, and this [study] shows that many of our kids are exposed to at least some secondhand smoke. Clearly, if they live with smokers, they're exposed to a lot, and I think those kids are most at risk."

The study's findings were published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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