Data reviewed by the National Youth Tobacco Survey found that second hand smoke exposure decreased among both nonsmoking and smoking kids in grades six through twelve.
But there’s also not-so-good news. In 2009, 22.8 percent of non-smoking students and 75.3 percent of smoking students still reported second hand smoke exposure in a car within the past week.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, second hand smoke contains around 7,000 chemicals. Around 70 of those chemicals are known carcinogens.
Acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, delayed lung growth, and more severe cases of asthma increase when the air kids breathe contains smoke from tobacco products.
Voluntary smoke-free policies, or expanding existing comprehensive smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in worksites and public areas, could reduce second hand exposure in cars, says the AAP.
It can be tough for parents who smoke to limit their children’s exposure to tobacco smoke.
And discussing the issue during an office visit can sometimes be tricky, says Dr. Theresa LoCoco, a member of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
LoCoco, who practices with Pediatric Associates in Phoenix, says she finds it best to remember that both parents and their pediatricians have a common goal-optimum health for their children.
“This opens the door to discuss the risks of second-hand smoke: increased rates of ear infections, allergies, asthma and asthma exacerbations, pneumonia and other upper respiratory tract infections.”
There’s also an association between parental smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as behavioral issues such as ADHD/ADD, says LoCoco.
Kids whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke themselves, increasing the risk for cancer later on in life.
But quitting smoking is tough. And while many parents would like to for the health of their child, some are not currently ready or able to so. Sometimes it’s not the parent who smokes, says LoCoco, but instead a close family member or friend who has close contact with the child.
LoCoco advises those parents to try to limit tobacco smoke exposure to their children as much as possible. This includes never having the child in the car or house with someone who is smoking.
Still, she emphasizes that no amount of exposure to tobacco smoke is considered safe.
Recent research warns of the dangers of “third-hand smoke,” which is exposure to nicotine and other harmful substances in the residue left by tobacco smoke. This residue can be found on drapes, upholstery, clothing, hair and skin and has many of the same health consequences for children as second-hand smoke.
Limiting this exposure can often times be difficult. LoCoco suggests that a smoker change clothes and shower or bathe before contact with a child to keep exposure to a minimum.