The Medical Minute: How smoking harms kids

November 7, 2011 By Adam Spanier

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health. However, smoke exposure (secondhand smoke) also can be harmful. Cigarette smoke has more than 4,000 chemicals in it, and more than 50 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Children are at greater risk from these exposures than adults because they breathe more frequently than adults and their bodies are still developing.

Studies from around the globe have uncovered new risks -- both physical and mental -- to who are exposed to . The latest research has found that children exposed to secondhand smoke are more prone to these problems:

-- Being overweight: A long-term study in Hong Kong found children whose fathers smoke daily are more likely to be overweight, even if their mothers didn’t smoke. Previous studies had linked a mother’s smoking during pregnancy to an increased risk for unhealthy weight.

-- Infections: A related study found that babies exposed to secondhand smoke during their first six months are 45 percent more likely to be hospitalized for an infectious disease by their eighth birthday. Earlier studies had uncovered a greater risk for respiratory infections and ear infections among children younger than 6 who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

-- Lung development: during pregnancy and childhood has been shown to impair lung development, leading to lifelong deficits in lung function.

-- Heart disease: Secondhand smoke can harm the inner lining of blood vessels in toddlers, according to a U.S. study of children ages 2 to 5 and 9 to 14. A study in Finland found that children ages 8 to 13 exposed to secondhand smoke showed thickening of the arteries. Both problems are early stages of heart disease.

-- Psychiatric problems: When women smoke while pregnant, a Finnish study found, the rate of psychiatric illnesses among their children is at least 50 percent higher than the rate among nonsmokers’ children. Substance abuse, behavioral problems and emotional disorders were especially common.

-- ADHD: Recent national studies have demonstrated that children exposed to tobacco prenatally have 2.5 times the odds of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

-- Lower test scores: Teens with parents who smoke are more likely to fail standardized tests than those in smoke-free homes, according to researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia.

How can you make sure secondhand smoke in the home doesn’t affect your children? The only way is to quit; even smoking only outside is not enough. As the American Cancer Society’s 36th Great American Smokeout (Nov. 17) approaches, here are some tips to help you stop smoking:

-- Write down the reasons you want to quit.

-- Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, and other aids to smoking.

-- Keep your hands busy with activities such as knitting, sewing, or doing puzzles.

-- Socialize with nonsmokers.

-- Change habits tied to smoking. Does drinking alcohol or coffee make you want to light up? Limit or avoid these activities.

-- Practice stress-reducing tricks such as deep breathing, meditation or exercise.

-- Call 800-QUIT-NOW, a government-sponsored tobacco-cessation service, or look into Penn State Hershey’s Smoking Cessation Program by calling 800-243-1455.

Explore further: Living with a smoker may raise blood pressure in boys

Related Stories

Living with a smoker may raise blood pressure in boys

May 1, 2011
Exposure to secondhand smoke, even at extremely low levels, is associated with increased blood pressure in boys, according to new research being presented Sunday, May 1, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting ...

Smoke-exposed children with flu more likely to need ICU care

May 2, 2011
Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to need intensive care and intubation when hospitalized with influenza, according to new research by the University of Rochester Medical Center presented today ...

Moderate levels of secondhand smoke deliver nicotine to the brain

May 2, 2011
Exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a person can get by riding in an enclosed car while someone else smokes, has a direct, measurable impact on the brain—and the effect is similar to what happens in the brain of the ...

Recommended for you

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

Scientists develop new supplement that can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults

July 18, 2017
Whey protein supplements aren't just for gym buffs according to new research from McMaster university. When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.