Parents ignorant of passive smoking health risks

Parents are unaware of the health risks of passive smoking on their children, a new report by ASH has shown, Only a quarter of parents are aware asthma can be a risk. And just 3% of parents identified cot death as a consequence of passive smoking. The survey says the two in five children in the UK who live with at least one smoker are at risk. However, parents in other countries are taking note of the health risks of passive smoking to children. In Australia, for example the proportion of smokers who restricted smoking in their homes rose from 2% in 1989 to 32% in 1997.

ASH’s research manager Amanda Sandford said: “Parents must recognise that passive smoking causes ill-health in children. Parents who smoke must accept there is a risk attached not only to their health, but to their children’s too.” She called for more government campaigns to raise parents’ awareness of the risks to their children of developing illnesses including asthma, bronchitis and glue ear. She said: “Clearly, the best way to eliminate children’s exposure to passive smoking is for parents to stop smoking and to make their homes smoke-free.”

But she said if parents could not or would not stop smoking, they should try to limit their child’s exposure to tobacco smoke. ASH quotes World Health Organization figures which indicates babies are at five times greater risk of cot death if their mothers smoke. Children also have a 20 to 40% increased risk of asthma if they are exposed to tobacco smoke, and a 70% increased risk of respiratory problems if their mother smokes. ASH says 17,000 children are hospitalised every year because of passive smoking. The survey was carried out by SmokeFree London. The questioned 2,000 people, 22% of whom were parents.

Source: BBC Online. May 2001

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