Background: Early life exposure to tobacco smoke has been extensively studied but the role of second-hand smoke (SHS) for new-onset respiratory symptoms and lung function decline in adulthood has not been widely investigated in longitudinal studies. Our aim is to investigate the associations of exposure to SHS in adults with respiratory symptoms, respiratory conditions and lung function over 20 years. Methods: We used information from 3011 adults from 26 centres in 12 countries who participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Surveys I-III and were never or former smokers at all three surveys. Associations of SHS exposure with respiratory health (asthma symptom score, asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD) were analysed using generalised linear mixed-effects models adjusted for confounding factors (including sex, age, smoking status, socioeconomic status and allergic sensitisation). Linear mixed-effects models with additional adjustment for height were used to assess the relationships between SHS exposure and lung function levels and decline. Results: Reported exposure to SHS decreased in all 26 study centres over time. The prevalence of SHS exposure was 38.7% at baseline (1990-1994) and 7.1% after the 20-year follow-up (2008-2011). On average 2.4% of the study participants were not exposed at the first, but were exposed at the third examination. An increase in SHS exposure over time was associated with doctor-diagnosed asthma (odds ratio (OR): 2.7; 95% confidence interval (95%-CI): 1.2-5.9), chronic bronchitis (OR: 4.8; 95%-CI: 1.6-15.0), asthma symptom score (count ratio (CR): 1.9; 95%-CI: 1.2-2.9) and dyspnoea (OR: 2.7; 95%-CI: 1.1-6.7) compared to never exposed to SHS. Associations between increase in SHS exposure and incidence of COPD (OR: 2.0; 95%-CI: 0.6-6.0) or lung function (β: - 49 ml; 95%-CI: -132, 35 for FEV 1 and β: - 62 ml; 95%-CI: -165, 40 for FVC) were not apparent. Conclusion: Exposure to second-hand smoke may lead to respiratory symptoms, but this is not accompanied by lung function changes.
- Lung function
- Respiratory symptoms