Second-hand smoke is deadly for you, kids

To the editor:

"My parents smoke in the house and it makes me cough," said the young pediatric patient sitting on the stretcher. She was a patient I had met while working in the Respiratory Care Department of the former North Adams Regional Hospital in 2000. She had severe asthma that required the use of both maintenance and rescue inhalers. Exacerbations of her asthma were made worse by seasonal allergies and by second-hand cigarette smoke.

As a former respiratory care practitioner, I know that second-hand cigarette smoke is more than just a nuisance. It is a poison containing over 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic, 70 of which have been linked to multiple cancers.

"My parents open the windows when they smoke, but it doesn't seem to help," she said, wheezing and breathing through a medicated nebulizer in the emergency room.

Sadly, among children who live in homes in which no one smokes indoors, those who live in apartments and condos) have 45 percent higher levels of cotinine, which is created when the body breaks down nicotine and is used to measure the level of exposure to second-hand smoke than children who live in single-family homes.

In adults, second-hand cigarette smoke causes over 41,000 deaths per year. In children, it causes more frequent illnesses, and instances of shortness of breath and asthma, increased middle ear infections, and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.


"I feel better now," said the young patient as she finished her breathing treatment. Unfortunately, she was sent home with the continued exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke.

If you smoke, consider smoking cessation. There are many local resources to help. Do not allow cigarette smoking in your home or car. There is no safe level of second-hand smoke.

If you live in multi-unit housing, speak to the management about creating a smoke-free environment. The Tri-Town Health Department of Lee, in conjunction with the Berkshire Partnership for Health, has developed the Smoke Free Housing Project that provides technical assistance for congregate housing systems seeking to support a smoke free environment. For more information, call the Tri-Town Health Department at 413-243-5540 or email For information regarding smoking cessation, call the Berkshire Partnership for Health at 413-445-9232 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW

Protect yourself and your loved ones. Say "No" to cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke.

David Blanchette, Lee David Blanchette, R.N., is the tobacco coordinator for Smoke Free Housing Project at the Tri-Town Health Department, Lee.