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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Passive smoking 'causes asthma'
Second-hand smoke is bad for your heart, researchers have found
Second-hand smoke has been linked to asthma
People whose partners smoke are nearly five times more likely to develop asthma in adulthood than those who are not exposed to passive smoking, according to new research.

And those who are exposed to second hand smoke at work are more than twice as likely to develop respiratory problems.

The risks of exposing children to passive smoking are already well-documented but until now, a direct link between passive smoking and asthma in adults has not been proven.

Now a team of scientists, led by Maritta Jaakkola, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, has produced the first hard evidence to prove that passive smoking does play a role in the development of adult asthma.

Exposure

The scientists studied a total of 718 people, none of whom had ever smoked, from a region in southern Finland.

A total of 231 had been diagnosed with asthma in the previous two-and-a-half years - the remaining 487 represented the control group.

The team compared the amount of exposure the two groups had had to passive smoking over a 12-month period and found that the development of adult asthma was more prevalent in those who had had the most exposure.

Maritta Jaakkola, who presented her findings at the 11th European Congress on Lung Disease and Respiratory Medicine in Berlin this week, said: "Our results demonstrate conclusively that passive smoking plays a role in the development of adult asthma."

'Ground-breaking study'

Clive Bates, from anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), believes the study will have enormous implications for employers who have not introduced anti-smoking regulations in the work-place.

He said: "This is a ground-breaking study which proves that passive smoking more than doubles the risk of developing asthma in adulthood.

"So, if employers have been negligent in reducing smoking in the work place, employees who develop asthma will have a fair chance of proving it was caused by passive smoking.

"And they will be able to claim thousands of pounds in compensation through the courts."

Mr Bates called on the government to introduce passive smoking legislation to reduce the risk of law suits to employers.

A German study, the results of which were also presented at the conference, linked passive smoking to lung cancer in women who had never smoked.

Meanwhile a study carried out in Italy reinforced the Finnish findings and also found that women were more likely to be exposed to passive smoking than men.

See also:

01 May 01 | Health
Tooth decay link to passive smoke
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