Mortality among Lifelong Nonsmokers Exposed to Secondhand Smoke at Home: Cohort Data and Sensitivity Analyses

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Evidence is growing that secondhand smoke can cause death from several diseases. The association between household exposure to secondhand smoke and disease-specific mortality was examined in two New Zealand cohorts of lifelong nonsmokers (“never smokers”) aged 45–77 years. Individual census records from 1981 and 1996 were anonymously and probabilistically linked with mortality records from the 3 years that followed each census. Age- and ethnicity-standardized mortality rates were compared for never smokers with and without home exposure to secondhand smoke (based on the reported smoking behavior of other household members). Relative risk estimates adjusted for age, ethnicity, marital status, and socioeconomic position showed a significantly greater mortality risk for never smokers living in households with smokers, with excess mortality attributed to tobacco-related diseases, particularly ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, but not lung cancer. Adjusted relative risk estimates for all cardiovascular diseases were 1.19 (95% confidence interval: 1.04, 1.38) for men and 1.01 (95% confidence interval: 0.88, 1.16) for women from the 1981–1984 cohort, and 1.25 (95% confidence interval: 1.06, 1.47) for men and 1.35 (95% confidence interval: 1.11, 1.64) for women from the 1996–1999 cohort. Passive smokers also had nonsignificantly increased mortality from respiratory disease. Sensitivity analyses indicate that these findings are not due to misclassification bias.

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