Monday, November 07, 2016

Protect kids from toxic secondhand smoke, experts urge

Public Release: 12-Sep-2016
Protect kids from toxic secondhand smoke, experts urge
American Heart Association Scientific Statement
American Heart Association

Parents and policy advocates should take a "zero tolerance" approach to exposing children to secondhand cigarette smoke, which can be responsible for lifelong cardiovascular consequences in addition to respiratory and other health issues, according to a new scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

"Parents should consider making their children's environment smoke free because cigarette smoke exposure is harmful to children's long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy," said Geetha Raghuveer, M.D., M.P.H., pediatric cardiologist and chair of the American Heart Association expert panel that wrote the statement. "Children exposed to cigarette smoke may develop early heart disease as adults due to poorly functioning, stiffer blood vessels. Some babies who were exposed to cigarette smoke while still in the womb may be at risk for sudden death during infancy."

Besides impacting heart function by causing damage to arteries, exposure to secondhand smoke has been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance - which is linked to diabetes. Furthermore, children are more likely to become smokers themselves if their parents smoke.

Since publication of the 1994 American Heart Association statement on this topic, experts have learned more about the dangers of secondhand smoke to children, including the high level of toxicity in the smoke that comes from the end of a burning cigarette ("side stream smoke" - this is a major component of second hand smoke) and the damage smoke does to children's blood vessels, Raghuveer said.

Secondhand smoke contains a host of chemicals that can impact health by causing changes to blood flow, blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rhythm.

Compared with adults, children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure in part because they cannot control tobacco use in their surroundings, and they appear to be particularly susceptible physically to the smoke's effects.


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