You grew up around parents who smoked and you feel fine, right? So, you think it's OK to smoke around your children now, too. Think again. Some facts we've gathered about second- and even third-hand smoke will make you think twice about that.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, "Secondhand smoke exposure kills an estimated 41,000 nonsmoking adults and 400 infants per year in the United States."
Keep kids away from cigarette smoke AND vapors for their health's sake. Which can be hard when parents — and even teens with younger siblings — continue to smoke and vape around little ones.
According to a new study pulished by the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents think vaping around kids is OK. "Parents may perceive e-cigarette aerosol as safe for children," reports the study. "Dual users more often had smoke-free policies than vape-free policies for the home. Dual users were less likely than cigarette-only smokers to report various child-protective measures inside homes and cars."
Smoking around children does more harm than you think. If you smoke around your kids, not only do you model a bad habit, you also put their health at risk. You expose them to second hand smoke (SHS) and third hand smoke (THS). "SHS proves to be harmful to children’s health," says Dontal Johnson, M.D., C.P.T., assistant professor of Pediatrics at Meharry Medical College.
"More than 600,000 people die prematurely each year of exposure to SHS. Roughly 28 percent of those deaths are children," he adds.
In addition, Diana Sepehri-Harvey, DO, primary care and integrative medicine physician with Saint Thomas Health, says, "Many studies confirm that exposure to smoke increases the risk of low birth weight, respiratory infections, asthma, recurrent ear infections, dental problems and even some childhood cancers."
The study also states, "Marketing of vaping products, such as JUUL and other e-cigarettes, have been heavily targeted to young people and may be influencing their decisions and attitudes about vaping in homes and cars when they become parents."
Second- and Third-Hand Smoke
Johnson says SHS adversely affects children’s lungs and he says new evidence shows a link between SHS exposure and increased cardiovascular disease later in life. Sepehri-Harvey also says that children of smokers have more than three times the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as compared to those of nonsmokers.
"Exposure to smoke increases the risk of respiratory problems in children, with approximately 50 percent increase in risk for lower respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia if either parent smokes," she adds.
Third-hand smoke (THS) is a new term that is a lingering after-effect of cigarettes. Johnson says that cigarette smoke particles linger for days and even weeks. Particles remain on counter tops, floors, furniture and other surfaces. Children who crawl and constantly put things in their mouths are exposed to these particles.
"THS contains more than 250 chemicals, such as butane, arsenic, carbon monoxide and lead, to name a few — that’s something to consider," says Johnson. "These chemicals have been shown to be neurotoxic and have adverse effects on the brain and overall health of a child."
Your Childhood Differs from Today's
Many people say they grew up around smokers and turned out just fine. Johnson discusses the effects of smoking around children with those that believe it isn’t harmful or that SHS or THS isn’t just as dangerous.
"Also, I try to find common ground with people because we all want what’s best for the next generation. Ages ago people believed it was OK to let children drink and smoke at a young age; we have since used the collective power of our minds to see those harmful activities for what they are and have corrected those actions," he adds.
"There are short- and long-term impacts of exposure to smoke and the only way to prevent it is to keep the home environment smoke-free," says Sepehri-Harvey. Parents should "Strive to give children the best resources and opportunities for a successful life. Protecting their health is the number one step toward that goal."