If official statistics are to be trusted, the state of California has less smokers than any other state in the U.S., except Missouri. Good for them, right? After all, it has been scientifically proved that smoking is hazardous for your health. But California still has a long way to go, because a recent study coming from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that nearly 2.5 million children in the state are exposed to secondhand smoke. That is, they live in homes where other people smoke inside, whether or not they're allowed to.
Exposure to secondhand smoke, by the way, is just as bad as if you were doing the smoking. For starters, it poses many of the same health hazards. Young children whose relatives smoke near them have a greater risk of being asthmatic or suffering from all sorts of respiratory illnesses.
These children are also more likely to become smokers themselves, when they grow up. (Not that I would have needed a scientific study to tell me that. Children, as a general rule, watch and learn from the adults around them. If everyone in their immediate environment is smoking or allows others to smoke, what sort of conclusion do you think the child will draw?)
In California, the UCLA study made some interesting discoveries that could help activists and governmental services in their fight against tobacco addiction. Discovery #1: Child exposure to secondhand smoke is much more frequent in African American and white households than among any other ethnic groups. Discovery #2: Children from rural areas or poor families are at greater risk than children from urban areas or well-to-do households.
Beyond their potential helpfulness, the UCLA findings make me wonder about the current effectiveness of health campaigns and the gaps in public education. Why is it that urban dwellers and higher-income people are more educated in the health hazards of smoking than other people? Has there perhaps been more effort directed at them? Likewise, why is it that African American and white people are more likely to smoke around their children than people from other ethnic groups? Is there a cultural reason, maybe?
These are important questions we must answer, if we want to find good and permanent solutions to the problem of tobacco addiction, in the state of California or anywhere else in the world. Additionally, the answers to these questions can tell us something important about our society and its pitfalls. Take note, UCLA. A second study would be nice.