Second Hand Smoke: Real Threat to Child Health

What is second hand smoke?

It is the smoke let out by tobacco smokers into the environment. The gaseous remnants of tobacco combustion along with suspended submicron sized solid particles get recycled into the air that innocent bystanders breathe.

Passive smoking is an issue for great concern in relation to child health. Children of all ages, including the unborn, are affected by cigarette smoke.

Are anti tobacco smoking campaigns effective?

In spite of awareness campaign over decades, tobacco smoking continues to be common. According to a recent epidemiology data, only 25 to 35 percent of homes are free of second hand smoke.

Levels of tobacco smoke in cars rise quickly and 25 times higher than that seen in the homes of smokers. Its high concentrations are noted even in a vehicle with open windows, for the wind blows the smoke back in to the vehicle, which remains there for hours.

As per the assessment reported by The World Health Organization, nearly half of the world’s children are victims of environmental tobacco smoke, and almost one third of the premature deaths traceable to second hand smoke were of children as per the latest statistics available at the moment.

Parents are reported to be responsible for 90 percent of children’s ambient air pollution by cigarette smoke by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Gravity of child health related problems

Smoke from the burning end of a cigarette (side stream) and the smoke puffed out by the smokers (mainstream smoke) contribute to environmental tobacco smoke pollution.

Passive smoking that follows exposes children and expectant mothers to high concentration of toxic substances: nicotine, carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, phenol, sulfur dioxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and others.

Numerous child health issues that emerge from passive smoking make secondary tobacco smoke unsafe even at the minimal concentrations.

Second hand smoke has been confirmed to be potentially teratogenic and carcinogen in humans. However, its role in increasing the risk of childhood cancers like leukemias and brain tumors is not yet fully supported by clinical studies.

Children succumb more easily to the effects of pollutants

Children get easily affected by the pollutants they breathe. The consequences are severe and lasting; can continue to have an impact on their health into adulthood.

Why so? 
Click and read “why are children more susceptible to pollution hazards?”

Effects of second hand smoke


World Health Organization website: Online Q&A , May 2012; “Why is smoking an issue for non-smokers?”

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