Few parents condone smoking when it comes to their children. Most everyone knows that tobacco products cause a multitude of health complications, including heart disease and many types of cancer. Sadly, many parents are not nearly as informed on the dangers their own smoking may pose to their children. Not only are children who have smoking parents more likely to smoke themselves, but second-hand and third-hand smoke present real health dangers to children as well, even if they never pick up a cigarette.
What is Second-Hand Smoke?
Second-hand smoke refers to the smoke which comes off the end of a lit cigarette or that which is exhaled by a smoker after taking a drag. Many people falsely assume that this smoke is somehow less dangerous than that which is inhaled directly into the lungs via tobacco products. The truth is, second-hand smoke is almost equally as dangerous as smoking firsthand.
What Makes Second-Hand Smoke so Dangerous?
Inhalation of second-hand smoke increases the risk of many of the same illnesses as smoking. Those who live with smokers are at a much higher risk of lung cancer, stroke, COPD, and heart disease compared to those who are not exposed to any tobacco smoke at all. Second-hand smoke causes additional risks for children, however, because their lungs are still developing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to second-hand smoke may cause or worsen asthma, respiratory illnesses, and ear infections. It has also been shown that second-hand smoke is especially harmful to infants, as it increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Second-hand smoke is known to contain up to 7,000 chemicals. Many of these are known carcinogens. Each time children inhale this smoke, they are exposed to all of these dangerous substances.
What if a Parent Smokes Outdoors?
Many parents believe that smoking outside of the home or vehicle will fully protect their children from the dangers of second-hand smoke. While this does reduce exposure, it does not remove the risk of illnesses related to tobacco smoke. Residue can linger on clothes and hair, and the chemicals contained within can be re-released into the air when the person moves. Holding an infant after smoking can also lead to smoke inhalation. According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure, especially for children.
Other Dangers of Smoking to Children:
Aside from the obvious health issues which can arise from second and third-hand smoke, there are other, more lingering, consequences of parents who smoke around children. Those who are raised by smokers are far more likely to smoke themselves when they are older. This can lead to even more lung damage, and the potential for health problems increases exponentially.
What can Parents do to Reduce Risk?
The only totally effective way for parents to reduce their child’s risk of smoke exposure is to quit smoking. While smoking outdoors will cut down on some of the exposure, it’s not enough to guarantee the safety of their child’s lungs and heart. There are various tools available to help parents stop smoking, including nicotine replacement therapies and electronic cigarettes, which do not emit second or third-hand smoke.
For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.
Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.
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