Dr Nina Nyrnes: daughter's smoking hurts her children
I have been reading a lot about the dangers of smoke exposure lately. I am concerned because my daughter smokes in her home and her car even if her children are around. How can I convince her how dangerous this is?
You are absolutely right to be concerned about your daughter's smoking and its effects on the health of your children. There is no question that smoking is a dangerous habit and over 70pc of current smokers express a wish to quit when asked. Active smoking increases the risk of a whole host of diseases, including many cancers.
However, passive smoking is also known to be dangerous. Passive smoking is the exposure to second-hand smoke coming from another person.
It consists of two types of smoke. Side-stream smoke is that smoke that comes from the end of a cigarette, which is particularly high in toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals and has smaller particles which enter the lungs more easily. Mainstream smoke is the smoke expelled from a smoker's mouth.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to cause harm and at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. The World Health Organisation estimates that 600,000 people die every year due to the effects of passive smoking. About 40pc of children are exposed to smoke in their own home, and it is estimated that up to a third of passive smoking-related deaths are in children.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of passive smoking for a number of reasons. They breathe more rapidly, and so inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight.
Children don't have the same control over their environment. A baby is unable to leave a smoke-filled room and children often must stay with their parents or guardian. They may not have a choice to go elsewhere in the home or may be too shy or afraid to ask others not to smoke around them.
Children who live in a home where smoking occurs have a higher incidence of dying from cot death. They have a significantly increased risk of developing asthma, ear nose and throat infections and meningitis.
Children who grow up around smokers are more likely to become smokers themselves. They are also more likely to develop chronic obstructive airway disease and cancer as adults. Children exposed to smoke in the home have also been shown to have reading and reasoning skills that are less well developed than those who grow up in smoke-free homes even if there is only low-level exposure.
Living with a smoker is estimated to increase the risk of lung cancer by 20-30pc. Passive smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of lymphoma and brain cancer in children.
It is estimated that living with people who smoke increases the risk of death from coronary artery disease by 50-60pc. A very recent study on the effects of passive smoking in children showed that it irreversibly damages a child's arteries, thus increasing the future risk of stroke and heart attack. This ages their arteries by an additional 3.3 years compared to those growing up in a smoke-free environment.
Passive smoking can also damage a growing baby in the womb. Mothers exposed to second-hand smoke are 23pc more likely to have a still birth and 13pc more likely to give birth to a baby with congenital defects.
Smoking during pregnancy also passes toxins onto the growing baby. Children of mothers who smoke in pregnancy have a higher incidence of cot death, respiratory illness and behavioural disorders such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Parents and guardians should listen to their children. A study in the UK showed that 98pc of children wished their parents would stop smoking, while 82pc wished parents wouldn't smoke in front of them. 78pc wished they wouldn't smoke in the car, 41pc said smoke exposure made them feel unwell and 42pc said it made them cough.
It was estimated in the UK that smoke exposure resulted in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions in 2011. It is likely, per head of population, that we have similar illness and admissions here.
Passive smoking is dangerous and causes harm. We have banned it in public places due to this known fact. I have no doubt that your daughter loves and cares for her children and wants what is best for them.
The message is clear. For her health and their future she should quit smoking herself. If she can't do that at the very least keep her smoking out of the car and home.
Her children's health will thank her for it.
Health & Living