2nd-hand smoke plagues pregnant Chinese women

10:02, May 30, 2010      

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Nearly half of all expectant mothers in Chinese mainland cities are exposed to secondhand smoke, results from a recent survey released on Friday showed.

Of the nearly 300 pregnant women polled in five major cities including Beijing and Shanghai, 9.9 percent also suffered from passive smoking frequently and 4.8 percent were exposed to the smoke almost every day, the survey by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group found.

"The results are disappointing, particularly in the cities where authorities have issued smoking bans in public places," said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the nongovernmental Think Tank Research Center for Health Development.

"The situation could be even worse in the large rural areas," she said.

The survey results were released in the run-up to World No Tobacco Day, which falls on Monday.

About 80 percent of the secondhand smoke exposure occurred at the workplace, the survey found. But 30 percent of those polled said they would try to stop colleagues from smoking.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents also reported being exposed to secondhand smoke at home, mostly from husbands who smoke.

Healthcare professionals constantly warn pregnant women about the dangers of secondhand smoke, which can result in low birth weights and premature births.

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to be carcinogenic or otherwise toxic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Basically, I know smoking in front of my pregnant wife might harm the baby, so I smoke less at home now and usually do so in the balcony," said Xie Yan, an IT engineer in Beijing whose wife is five months pregnant.

But secondhand smoke can still spread significantly in these areas, said Yang Gonghuan, who heads the smoking control office under the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many people including women suffering from secondhand smoke do not know enough about the health hazards, she said, citing the rising number of breast cancer cases among Chinese women.

Nearly 34 percent of 5,000 women polled in a survey by major portal Sohu.com and the Think Tank Research Center for Health Development last month said they had no idea secondhand smoke was harmful to their health.

About 3 percent of Chinese women are smokers, latest figures from a national epidemiology survey held in 2002 showed. "The figure must be higher nowadays, particularly when tobacco companies spare no effort to cultivate new customers, primarily women and youths," Wu Yiqun said.

The smoking rate among Chinese men, which now stands at 66 percent, will increase slowly as the industry courts women, especially young ones, she said.

"They appeal to women with flavored cigarettes, attractive packet designs and subtle cultural persuasion by linking smoking with feminism and sexiness, " Yang said.

There are 350 million smokers in China and the WHO has estimated that the rate of female smokers worldwide will double by 2025, from about 9 percent in 2007.

Source: China Daily


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