Vapour Vexation

A new study shows that passive smoking affects children's health

The dangers of second-hand smoke (passive smoking) on children continue to become more prominent. A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health shows that second hand smoke and foetal exposure due to smoking while pregnant, significantly increases the risk of invasive meningococcal disease.

Researchers at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, University of Nottingham performed a systematic review of 18 studies, which looked at the effects of passive smoking on the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children. Results showed that being exposed to second-hand smoke at home, doubled the risk of invasive meningococcal disease. For children under five, this risk was even higher, and for children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, the risk increased to three times that of children born to non-smoking households.

While Rachael Murray, one of the researchers with the UK Centre of Tobacco Control, explained that they estimated an extra 630 cases of childhood invasive meningococcal disease every year which are directly attributed to second-hand smoke in the UK alone, doctors here point out that in India there are few cases of meningococcal disease. "However, the chances of respiratory infection due to exposure to second hand smoke are high," says Dr Sharad Agharkhedkar, former president of the Pune unit of Indian Medical Association.

While we cannot be sure about how exactly tobacco smoke is affecting children, the findings from this study highlight consistent evidence of the further harms of smoking around children and during pregnancy. Thus, doctors have urged that parents and family members should be encouraged to not smoke inside the house or around children.

According to Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial hospital, second-hand smoke contains more than 3000 cancer causing substances that cause cancer, pulmonary disease, ear problems and others among passive smokers. Lung cancer in women is the fastest rising cancer in the world and is directly attributable to passive smoking. "A smoker has no business causing lethal injury to an innocent bystander," Dr Chaturvedi says, adding that despite protective laws being in place, the rights of non-smokers were blatantly violated.

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