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Second-Hand Smoke -- More Bad News

What in the (Medical) World is Going On? Part Three

Not wanting to “Andy Rooney” anyone on the blog, but I have run across a few medical news releases that have the white hair on my neck standing up. Where else can a blogger vent but on a blog? As always, I encourage your comments (even the negative ones).

teenagers hanging out

Adolescents are already at risk for hearing loss from loud music and concerts venues, but a new study published in the July issue of Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery found that teens exposed to second-hand smoke have a two-fold increase in sensorineural hearing loss. This is the first study that has found a direct relationship to second-hand (tobacco) smoke and hearing loss.

So…who is smoking around teenagers? Before pointing the finger at the parents, be advised that more and more teenagers are choosing to light up those cancer-sticks themselves. And, what about marijuana smoke? When it comes to smoke, adverse effects on the ears have been known to come from many sources, including wood-burning stoves. Obviously, a teenager smoking weed or tobacco in front of a wood-burning stove while listening to loud music on his iPod may not hear these warnings.

Third-hand smoke is not any safer. Carcinogens clinging to the clothes and hair of well-meaning adults who “only smoke outside” have some significant risks, too. As a militant non-smoker, I can smell stale cigarette smoke as soon as I enter an exam room. As I size up the people, little do they know the stern lecture that will follow.

Since I turned sixty, my mail has been flooded with advertisements for hearing aids, cremation services (morbid, I know), and all sorts of old folk stuff. Since I hear just fine –  too-fine, in fact — I do worry about my teenage patients and grandkids. What is their hearing going to be like in ten years? Twenty years? If you think they ignore you now, just wait.

Of all of the bad habits practiced by humans, I hate smoking the most. Cigarettes are unbelievably expensive. A pack-a-day smoker can spend over 0 a month, or ,400 a year. That could be a vacation or even a car payment. No one, unless they have been living in cave for the last fifty years, disputes that cigarettes kill. They helped kill my Dad and many members of my family. They have killed my friends and I don’t like attending funerals where people are smoking outside. I have treated cigarette-related illnesses my entire career and I am tired of it. Medical science has done very well treating diseases, but we have not found a cure for stupid.

A few months ago, while attending a meeting at our Cancer Center, I had to walk through a fog bank of cigarette smoke from the valet parking attendants. There they were…smoking away…as cancer patients entered for treatment. Needless to say, I was firing off a stern complaint to the CEO about this incident. The last meeting that I attended, smoking was no more.

I spent my childhood lying on the floor to watch television because of a haze of blue smoke hovering just a foot above my head. My mother and step-father were constant smokers. I hated smoking then; hate it even more now. I feel it is my responsibility as a concerned clinician to help save other children who are innocently exposed. A doctor in Boston got in hot water recommending that morbidly obese children be taken away from their parents and put in foster homes, but I would sure like to turn in smoking adults to Child Protective Services.

Photo: Jupiterimages/© Getty Images

The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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