October 3, 2006

Jacobs Warns of the Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke on Children

Nassau County Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (Woodbury) is reminding residents of the dangers of secondhand smoke on children. A new report by the Surgeon General confirms that secondhand smoke is not only dangerous, it is deadly.

Each year in the United States, secondhand smoke is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and tens of thousands of coronary heart disease deaths among people who have never smoked. The report warns that no amount of secondhand smoke exposure is safe.

While secondhand smoke is dangerous for nonsmoking healthy adults, it is even more hazardous for babies and children who have small airways and lungs that still are developing. Infants and young children of parents who smoke are more likely to have lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in between 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year. Children also are more susceptible to symptoms of respiratory irritation like coughing, excess phlegm, and wheezing.

“We all want our children to have the best opportunity to grow up healthy,” said Presiding Officer Jacobs. “It is important to realize that when you smoke a cigarette or take your children to a smoke-filled environment, their health is at risk. Please learn the risks and protect your children.”

Here are some ways you can protect your children:

* Make your home and vehicle smoke-free.

* Don’t let anyone, including a babysitter, smoke in your house.

* Find out about the smoking policies of your daycare provider, preschool, schools, and caregivers for your children.

Smoking in cars when children are present is especially harmful to their health. This is because smoking in a small space like a car is 23 times more toxic than in a house. A person who smokes in a car can raise the carbon monoxide levels by the third cigarette, causing the body to have less oxygen. This can damage the heart, brain and muscles. Even opening a window may not protect children or others because it can change the airflow in the car causing the smoke to be blown directly back at them.

In addition, second-hand smoke is a major cause of childhood illness. Many parents are not aware of how harmful it is to allow smoking around their children. Babies exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death.

Second-hand smoke is dangerous for everyone, but children are more at risk because:

  • Their lungs are smaller and their immune systems, which protect them from getting sick, are less developed.
  • They breathe faster than adults and breathe in more harmful chemicals.
  • They have less control over their environment and have less ability to complain.
  • Second-hand smoke can affect children’s behavior and their ability to understand and reason. Studies have shown that children who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke score lower on tests in reading, math, logic and reasoning skills.

Children and infants who live in homes where one or more family members smoke have a greater risk of ear infections; lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia; breathing problems; and chronic coughing and wheezing.

Children who already have asthma suffer more and severe asthma attacks, and even small amounts of smoke can make their condition worse. Also, children who do not have asthma are more likely to get asthma when exposed to second-hand smoke.