The Effects of Cigarette Smoke on Children
by Salma Jafri
Cigarette smoke is harmful to kids, but you probably already knew that. Just why it’s harmful is less often talked about yet more crucial to understanding, and perhaps, eliminating cigarette smoke from the lives of babies and toddlers.
Owing to the fact that their lungs are still developing, a child’s breathing rate is much faster than an adult’s, and thus they inhale more smoke from their environment. An adult’s breathing rate is 14-18 times per minute, while babies breathe 60 times per minute and children (up to 5 years) breathe at a rate of 20-60 breaths a minute. It’s pretty obvious to assume from these stats that in any given smoke-filled minute, babies and toddlers will inhale more second-hand smoke than an adult will.
The ingredients of cigarettes are not made public, thus it is hard to fully understand the health risks associated. However, nicotine, cyanide, arsenic, and carbon monoxide are some of the known and listed contents with toxic effects.
Negative Effects on Children from Inhaling Second-hand Smoke
The following issues may arise in children who are exposed to cigarette smoke:
- Respiratory problems
Children in smoke-filled environments have a greater probability of developing asthma and other related respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis.
These children may develop difficulty breathing (called wheezing), constant shortness of breath, may cough excessively, and be prone to developing chest infections and related complications.
A child who lives in a household where both parents smoke has a 40% higher chance of missing school as a result.
- Colds and coughs
Children who are exposed to second hand smoke develop sensitive nasal cavities and are thus more prone to colds and coughs.
- Middle ear infections
It is also a fact that children of smokers are more likely to suffer severe middle ear infections referred to as “glue ear”. Loss of hearing can also occur in severe cases of this condition. To relieve this condition, ears have to be surgically drained, which is a very painful procedure.
- Increased risk of cancer
Owing to the many carcinogens present in cigarette smoke, children are considered at a higher risk of cancer.
Ways of Preventing or Limiting the Negative Effects of Smoking
Parents of small children can take the following steps to ensure their child grows up in an environment free from second-hand smoke:
- Smoke outdoors (away from children) if you have to
- Absolutely avoid smoking in cars and confined spaces with little or no ventilation
- Take children for social outings only to those places where smoking is prohibited
Acknowledging and accepting that smoking is an unhealthy habit and has far-reaching negative effects on not only the individual smoker, but also on any babies or children in the house, is the first step towards its elimination and a healthier lifestyle. Consider this: children inhaling air in a smoke filled room for an hour is equal to them actively smoking 10 cigarettes!
What do you think? The Effects of Cigarette Smoke on Children