A recent initiative launched by the country's top environmental agency calls on parents who smoke to take their habit outside- away from their children.
Called the Smoke-Free Home Pledge, the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative aims to help children avoid second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke - which can instigate asthma attacks and boost the risk of lung infections, certain cancers and a host of other health problems.
Backed by various medical, consumer and community groups, the effort calls for a national media campaign, including television and print advertising, to encourage parents who smoke to do so outdoors. Studies have shown that childhood exposure to second-hand smoke, much of which comes at home, increases the risk not just of asthma but also of pneumonia and ear infections.
EPA Administrator Christine Whitman stressed during the pledge's announcement that exposure to tobacco smoke is an entirely preventable trigger for asthma, a condition from which five million American children suffer, accounting for more than 10 million days of missed school each year. "We're not telling them they have to stop smoking," Whitman said, "We're just asking them to use a little common sense."
Nearly 15 million children under age 5, or almost 40 percent, live with a smoker.