THURSDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Drop by for a visit or share the drive -- but please, no smoking.
That's the message the vast majority of Americans send to the smokers within their social circle, a new study finds.
Four out of five adults now have smoke-free rules in their homes, while about three out of four have enacted the same ban in their cars, according to the national survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Getting tough on smoking is always a good idea, experts say.
"We have made tremendous progress in the last 15 years protecting people in public spaces from secondhand smoke," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release. "The good news is that people are applying the same protection in their homes and vehicles."
Whether or not you've banned smoking inside the home seems to depend on your smoking status, the CDC study found. While 89 percent of non-smokers say they have a smoke-free policy at home, only 48 percent of smokers have a similar rule. When it comes to cars or other vehicles, 85 percent of non-smokers do not allow smoking, compared to just 27 percent of smokers, the research showed.
Many people may be taking their cue from local legislation, the CDC said. The agency noted that most of the people who've established their own smoke-free rules live in states with longstanding tobacco-control programs and comprehensive smoking bans.
Nevertheless, there's more work to be done, McAfee said. "Millions of non-smokers, many of whom are children, remain exposed to secondhand smoke in these environments," he said.
According to the CDC, nearly 11 million non-smokers remain exposed to secondhand smoke at home and almost 17 million non-smokers are exposed in cars.
The non-smokers most affected by secondhand smoke are men, younger adults, blacks and those with less education. States with the fewest smoking bans or tobacco-control programs had the most adult smokers, the study found.
The danger to nonsmokers' health from stray cigarette smoke is real. Adults exposed to secondhand smoke can develop heart disease and lung cancer, the CDC said. For children, secondhand smoke increases the risk for more severe and frequent asthma attacks, acute respiratory infections, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the agency said.
Exposure to secondhand smoke claims the lives of an estimated 50,000 people in the United States each year. Because of that, the U.S. Surgeon General advises 100 percent smoke-free policies that protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke.
"While almost half of all U.S. residents are protected by 100 percent smoke-free policies in worksites, restaurants and bars, overall there are still an estimated 88 million non-smoking Americans over the age of 3 who are exposed to secondhand smoke," study lead author Brian King, an epidemiologist in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in the news release. "It's important to educate people on the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and how smoke-free homes and vehicles can reduce that exposure."
The study appears in the May issue of the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
The American Cancer Society provides more information on secondhand smoke.