The dangers of second-hand smoke

Following the recent Family Court judgement that banned the parents of a six-year-old from smoking in the presence of their son, we decided to look into the issue of passive smoking a little more closely.

Most of us are aware of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, but little attention is giving to the act of smoking around babies and children, or indeed smoking in an area that they frequent.

Here, our expert Dr Howard Chilton answers some important questions.

Is it safe to smoke near babies/children?

It is never safe to allow babies or children (or adults for that matter) to inhale cigarette smoke. Even low concentrations have the potential to cause health problems over time.

What are the dangers?

Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemical components many of which are harmful, with 60 or so of them being involved in the indiction of cancer by either initiating or promoting malignant tumour formation. It also contains tar, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde and of course nicotine, which causes  central nervous system stimulation and depression.

What is the impact of second hand smoke?

The impact is vast even from 2nd hand smoke, from stunting the growth of fetuses in the womb, increasing the incidence of prematurity, SIDS, respiratory infections, middle ear infection, and reducing lung function. It also can impair the immune system which causes an increase in generalised infections such as the lethal meningococcal disease.

Is it safe to smoke in areas (such as cars or rooms) that babies and children frequent?

It has been shown clearly that even smoking outside doesn’t stop the danger. There remains smoke on the clothes and in the body which is released later.

What are some guidelines?

The only sensible guideline is to quit. Not only does the smoke endanger children directly but the act of smoking itself also presents an poor example to children who might take up the habit later to make them feel more adult.

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