/ March 1, 2016/ Allergy, Babies & Kids Allergy and Cold, Pediatric (Kids), Pediatric Allergy & Cold, Sinus, Smoking & Sinusitis/ 0 comments

Where there’s cigarette smoke, there’s a risk to children

Sarah Osborne Sarah Osborne, CPNP
About the author: Sarah Danhauer Osborne is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP) with Owensboro Health’s One Health Pediatric Center. She is an Owensboro native and a mom of five. She holds degrees from the University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University. For more information or to make an appointment, call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663).

The health risks that come along with smoking are not new. The first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and its impact on health were published in 1964. We know that smoking increases the risks for cancer, heart disease and much more. That’s not just for adults, however. The health risks to children are even greater.
While everyone knows cigarette smoking is not good for the smoker, it is often overlooked how detrimental smoking can be for the people surrounding a smoker. If you have ever considered quitting, or helping a friend or family member quit, there’s no time like the present! If not for yourself, consider quitting for the young people in your life, and here are some reasons why.

Risky behavior
The research is clear: There is no safe amount of exposure to tobacco smoke for children. That means things like limiting smoking to one room of the house, keeping a window open while smoking in the car or smoking outside the house don’t make a big difference when it comes to protecting children. The reason for this is that smoke isn’t only in the air around us.
When tobacco smoke touches clothing or a surface, it leaves behind toxins and chemicals. That’s why you can smell tobacco smoke inside a smoker’s car, on their clothing, or even in your hair when you’ve been around a smoker. The odor that lingers is because of those chemicals becoming airborne again as you move, and is called “third hand smoke.” Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Mayo Clinic has shown that this smoke residue is as, or more, harmful as secondhand smoke.
All of this means that there’s only one way to keep children safe with regards to tobacco-related health problems: Don’t smoke around them and don’t let them be exposed to tobacco smoke. If you can smell tobacco smoke that means your child is being exposed to it, even if no one’s smoking right then and there.

Fighting for air and life
Exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful to children before they’re even born, and these risks continue into infancy and childhood. According to the Surgeon General’s 2014 report on tobacco-associated health risks, more than 100,000 babies have died in the past 50 years because of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), complications from prematurity, complications from low birth weight and other health problems connected to smoke exposure during pregnancy or infancy. That comes out to 2,000 babies a year, or more than five a day.
SIDS, where children suddenly die because they stop breathing, is a problem that is not fully understood by medical science. However, we do understand that certain things increase the risk for SIDS, and smoking is one of the biggest risks.
Children exposed to tobacco smoke are also at increased risk for other health problems. These include:
• Ear infections
• Coughs and colds
• Respiratory problems like bronchitis, pneumonia and wheezing
• Tooth decay (from toxins in tobacco smoke settle on teeth and increase the risk of cavities)
None of these are minor problems. Repeated ear infections can lead to a need for children to have tubes surgically implanted in their ears. Coughs and colds can cause children to miss school, often affecting parents because someone has to stay home with the child and children with high smoke exposure have a harder time getting over a cold. Bronchitis is painful and can lead to pneumonia, which is potentially fatal to children, and asthma is worsened by smoke exposure and can cause a need for hospitalization for breathing treatments.

Life-long impact
Smoking isn’t just a risk now. The health effects of smoking are cumulative; meaning the risk of problems grows with repeated exposure to tobacco smoke over time. This is especially problematic for children, who are growing and developing. Smoking exposure can lead to long-term health problems. These include:
• Lung development issues
• Lung cancer
• Heart disease
• Eye cataracts
The risks from smoking are not small, and they don’t just affect smokers. Of the 20 million people who have died from smoking-related illnesses since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964, 2.5 million were nonsmokers who became sick because of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Vaper trails
One of the biggest shifts in the smoking population is people switching from tobacco to vaporizers or electronic cigarettes. These have the obvious benefit of not leaving their surroundings smelling like tobacco smoke, but there is growing evidence to suggest that these are not completely risk-free.
According to a study conducted by Boston University, cells in the windpipe of people using electronic cigarettes tended to grow faster than normal cells should, a change strongly connected to cancer. That’s also a change that happens with exposure to tobacco smoke. This tells us is that e-cigarettes are still causing cellular changes that we know are connected to cancer.
While that’s not definitive proof that e-cigarettes are harmful, it is definitely a cause for concern. My advice is that e-cigarettes shouldn’t be considered “absolutely safe” for use, especially around children. Until we know more, the safest course of action is not to expose children to either e-cigarettes or tobacco smoke.

Quitters win
If you are a smoker, one of the absolute best things you can do for your health is to quit smoking. The benefits won’t just be felt by you, but also for everyone around you, especially children.
There’s no denying that quitting tobacco can be a real battle, but it’s a battle you don’t have to take on alone. There are a great deal of resources available out there, including programs that can provide nicotine replacement for free or at reduced costs, as well as options that help keep you accountable and increase your chance of success.
To learn more about how to quit smoking or to find out about available resources, visit quitnowkentucky.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669). It won’t just be good for your loved ones, but also good for you, and will go a long way to helping make sure you’re around to spend time with your children, grandchildren and other loved ones for years to come.


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