Experts warn children exposed to second-hand smoke

Children exposed to second-hand smoke have a good chance of never reaching their full potential for developing normal lung function, a top consultant pulmonologist has warned.

Smoking near children should not be allowed as it can have acute and chronic repercussions on their health, according to Stephen Montefort.

Consultant Respiratory Physician Stephen Montefort

“Ear, throat and chest problems in children exposed to second-hand smoke are more common with more frequent exacerbations. This, in addition to being more likely for children to become smokers themselves…In my view, smoking should not be allowed anywhere children may have such exposure, and it should start at home,” said he declared.

Montefort was reacting to the results of a recent study which showed that the vast majority of children who took part in the study had traces of second-hand smoke in their bodies, even though almost three quarters of their parents declared that they were not exposed to it House.

The research provided a snapshot of the hidden impact of tobacco that potentially exists in the age cohort. The study involved collecting urine samples from 174 children between the ages of 9 and 11 at five public schools.

Although nearly three in four parents (72.4%) said their children were not exposed to tobacco smoke at home, urine samples revealed that 95.4% of children were exposed to nicotine and 98.3% were exposed to NNK (nicotine-nitrosamino ketone derivative), a known lung carcinogen derived from the addictive nicotine.

“Since almost all children have been exposed to tobacco smoke, exposure does not only occur at home, but certainly also in transit – on foot or in the car – or during other social activities where adults smoke in the presence of children,” said the lead researcher. Noel Aquilina.

Reacting to this, Montefort, co-author of the study with Peter Fsadni, said: “This article also shows that claims that parents say they do not smoke near their children, and therefore do not affect them negatively, are wrong. The evidence is that second-hand smoke lurks in the air and on surfaces longer and therefore children are exposed anyway.

Montefort has long studied the impact of second-hand smoke on children.

Children tend to eliminate carcinogens from their bodies slowly compared to adults.

In 2012, he was among Maltese doctors who conducted a study involving around 8,000 schoolchildren and provided unprecedented hard evidence that passive smoking at home and personal smoking in adolescents ‘really does affect’ allergic conditions in children. children.

The study found that 31% of 5-8 year olds were passive smokers, followed by 51% of 13-15 year olds. It found that both maternal and paternal smoking put children at an increased risk of wheezing at some point in their lives, exercise-induced wheeze, nighttime cough and asthma.

Children tend to eliminate carcinogens from their bodies slowly compared to adults.

According to Maltese law, since 2004, smoking is prohibited in public indoor spaces. In 2012, a ban on smoking in playgrounds came into effect. The ban also applies to public gardens within the grounds of children’s play equipment. Since January 2017, it has become illegal to smoke in passenger cars in the presence of children under the age of 16.

Nothing prevents adults from smoking around children in other places, such as at home or when sitting outside in a bar or restaurant.

A Eurobarometer survey published in February 2021 showed that Maltese are more likely to smoke outdoors in areas frequented by children and teenagers, compared to other Europeans.

A total of 41% of Maltese respondents reported the presence of smokers in outdoor places aimed at teenagers or children, such as parks and playgrounds, compared to just 31% of all EU and UK respondents. United.

According to a March 2021 report by the World Health Organization, second-hand smoke kills an estimated 1.2 million people each year, and 65,000 of these premature and preventable deaths are in children and adolescents under the age of 15.

The report found that children whose caregivers smoke are nearly 70% more likely to try smoking by age 15.

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