Health Department Launches $5 Million Ad Campaign to Warn Against the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Albany, N.Y. (September 18, 2007) – The New York State Department of Health today announced the launch of a $5 million fall media campaign warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke to children.

The campaign coincides with the September 18 release of a U.S. Surgeon General's Report on the health consequences to children of exposure to tobacco smoke.

Featuring ads originally produced by England's and Michigan's tobacco control programs, New York's campaign explains that if you smoke around children, it's like they're smoking, too. The campaign encourages parents and caregivers to provide smoke-free environments for children and to quit smoking. The campaign will run until November 5. Ads on television, radio, bus shelters, bus interiors, convenience stores and the Internet will urge parents who smoke to call the New York State Smokers' Quitline for free help with quitting. A print ad with the same message will also run in parenting magazines delivered to New York subscribers. [For a high-resolution image of a print ad from this campaign, please go to www.health.ny.gov/publications/7629.pdf]

"The Surgeon General is clear: there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke," said state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Children are particularly vulnerable because they are still developing and their smaller size means the dose of toxins is greater. To make matters worse, they have no choice about breathing the toxic smoke."

Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause between 22,700 and 69,600 premature deaths from heart disease and about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the United States. Six of 10 children continue to be exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke, mostly in the home, and this exposure is responsible for 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year in children aged less than 18 months, resulting in 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations, annually.

"Our children's health is a priority," said Dr. Daines. "As we seek to improve children's access to quality health care here in New York and reduce our out-of-control health care costs, eliminating the illnesses and health care costs associated with secondhand smoke will be essential."

Dr. Daines said alerting the public to the dangers children face from secondhand smoke is part of Governor Spitzer's "Birth to Five" agenda, aimed at giving the youngest New Yorkers the educational opportunities and access to health care necessary to get a good start in life

"The solution to this problem is simple," said Dr. Ursula Bauer, Director of the state's Tobacco Control Program. "Never smoke around children and never smoke in places where children spend time, including homes and cars. Better yet, quit smoking altogether." Free assistance to stop smoking, including free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges for eligible smokers, is available from the state's Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or the Smokers' Quitsite at www.nysmokefree.com.

The U.S. Surgeon General's latest report, focusing exclusively on children, is an excerpt from the 2006 publication, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. The report, available at www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke, finds that:

  • Because their bodies are developing, infants and young children are especially vulnerable to the poisons in secondhand smoke.
  • Both babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies, which makes babies weaker and increases the risk for many health problems.
  • Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and young children.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe attacks.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheeze, and breathlessness, among school-aged children.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for ear infections and are more likely to need an operation to insert ear tubes for drainage.

Campaign Poster

I Wish I Could Quit Smoking (Poster)