University Of Maryland Using Amish Volunteers To Study Effects Of Secondhand Smoke


Many Amish living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania grow their own tobacco. Amish men smoke the tobacco in cigarettes, pipes and cigars to keep with traditional gender roles. While, most Amish women are more apt to avoid it.

Researchers at the University of Maryland examined the Old Order Amish community and discovered that women are vulnerable to health problems connected to secondhand smoke exposure. The researchers


Amish Exposed To Secondhand Smoke

The findings revealed that men, who smoked were probably harming the females by smoking around them.

The study led by a University of Maryland associate professor of medicine, Robert M. Reed, discovered that any amount of secondhand smoke altered the lung function of every Amish family member exposed. Nonsmoking women in particular, were affected by secondhand smoke exposure, in a small but significant way.

Since Amish men normally come assemble together on Sundays to enjoy a smoke. For this reason, Reed questioned whether the researchers would be able to find anything significant, since the secondhand smoke exposure for Amish families was likely extremely low.

“It was surprising that we found anything at all and I think that this really tells us how detrimental secondhand smoke can be,” said Reed. “I think there are some open questions of the certainly to which we can say that secondhand smoke exposure causes some things like obesity or diabetes or a low lung function. And I think our study tips the scale to make it more clear that those are also some of the ill effects.”

The research team analyzed data on a representative sample of 3,568 Amish, who partook in prior cardiovascular health surveys between 2001 and 2015. The data included secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use from family members.

Since records of familiar relations were available, the researchers were able to establish which individuals had a brother, husband or father who smoked. In turn, the research team could determine who may have been exposed to secondhand smoke. Blood samples were collected and lung function was tested during the study.

Nearly a third of the men, who participated in they study smoked, with 21 percent smoking pipes, 46 percent smoking cigarettes and 64 percent smoking cigars. Pipes and cigars produce significantly more noxious secondhand smoke compared to cigarettes.

On average, the Amish are more physically actively and consume more vegetables and fruits than average Americans. They also tend to live in rural areas and have similar diets, as well.

The findings revealed that women exposed to secondhand smoke had higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, higher body mass index and high fasting glucose levels.

“Although we know the dangers, there still are many people who are not protected from smoke,” said Brian King, deputy director of research translation for the CDC. “The finding from this study and other studies reinforce that secondhand smoke is bad, there’s no safe level of exposure and that even brief exposure can have immediate adverse impacts on your health.”

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