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Eur Respir J. 2002 Jan;19(1):172-81.

Environmental tobacco smoke and health in the elderly.

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  • 1Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki.


The aims of this article are to synthesize the evidence on health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the elderly and to discuss questions for future research. Health effects are divided into aetiological and prognostic studies. There is convincing evidence that ETS causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease, both of which are diseases of the elderly. Several cross-sectional studies show increased occurrence of chronic respiratory symptoms and deficits in ventilatory lung function in relation to ETS exposure at home and/or at work. A limited number of studies have found significant relations between ETS exposure and asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumococcal infections and stroke in the elderly. Longitudinal studies are needed before any definite conclusions can be made concerning ETS and noncarcinogenic respiratory diseases in the elderly. The potential role of environmental tobacco smoke exposure as a prognostic factor determining development of a pre-existing respiratory or heart disease is an important new area for research.

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