How children are affected by passive smoking

Children of smokers have nicotine in their bodies, even if their parents smoke outdoors with the door closed. This is revealed in a study included in a doctoral dissertation by registered nurse and public health researcher AnnaKarin Johansson at Linköping University.

Going outdoors to smoke with the doors and windows closed is nevertheless clearly the best way to protect your child from passive smoking. The parents of 216 of 366 children aged 2-3 years used this method. But not even that provided full protection. A test for the cotine content (a metabolic product of nicotine) in the urine indicated that these children had twice as much nicotine in their body as children of non-smokers. In homes where both adults smoked indoors, children had fifteen times higher levels than children of non-smokers.

Another study, based on 1,600 responses to a questionnaire for parents with children aged 1-2 years, shows a correlation between passive smoking and respiratory ailments in children. Significant differences could be established regarding “wheezing” and long-term coughing.

A comparative study of adults without children and parents of small children and school-age children, respectively, shows that relatively few people quit smoking when they have children, but also that many do change their smoking behavior.

The dissertation also examines parents’ attitudes toward passive smoking. A questionnaire involving 300 smokers indicates that most of them regarded passive smoking as harmful to children, but without knowing why. Many were dissatisfied with preventive efforts undertaken by maternal and pediatric health care professionals.

“The care-providers tend to want to avoid pointing the finger, but perhaps they are sometimes too cautious,” says AnnaKarin Johansson.

She suggests further research to elucidate the connections between various degrees of exposure to tobacco smoke and observed symptoms and diseases in children.

The dissertation is titled Passive Smoking in Children­-The Importance of Parents’ Smoking and Use of Protective Measures.

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