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Secondhand smoke tied to kids' behavior problems

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43742023/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/NEW YORK —


Children exposed to secondhand smoke at home may be more likely than their peers to have learning and behavioral problems, according to a new study.

Researchers found that of more than 55,000 U.S. children younger than 12 years, six percent lived with a smoker. And those kids were more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a learning disability or "conduct disorder" than children in smoke-free homes.

Even after accounting for a number of possible explanations -- like parents' incomes and education levels -- secondhand smoke was still tied to a higher risk of behavioral problems, said Hillel R. Alpert of the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the researchers on the work.

Still, the findings don't prove a smoke-filled home is to blame, said Alpert, because other factors the study didn't look at could be at play.

For instance, children exposed to secondhand smoke are often exposed to smoke while they are still in the womb. And mothers' smoking during pregnancy has been linked to increased risks of learning and behavioral problems.

Alpert's team, whose results appear in the journal Pediatrics, had no information on mothers' smoking during pregnancy.

It's also possible that parents who smoke have, themselves, a greater history of learning or behavior problems compared with non-smoking parents.

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Health experts already recommend that kids should be shielded from secondhand smoke, which can increase their risk of respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, severe asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.

"The key message for parents is to protect their children from exposure to secondhand smoke," Alpert told Reuters Health.

These latest findings, he said, may give them yet another reason to do so.

The results are based on a 2007 national survey of parents of 55,358 children younger than 12. Six percent of parents said someone in their household smoked -- translating into nearly 5 million U.S. children exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

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Parents in smoking households were more likely to say their child had been diagnosed with ADHD, a learning problem or "conduct disorder" -- where a child is often aggressive and antisocial.

About 20 percent said their child had at least one of those disorders, versus less than nine percent of parents in non-smoking homes.

When Alpert's team accounted for poverty, race, mothers' education levels and other factors, secondhand smoke was tied to a 51-percent increase in a child's risk of having one of the three disorders.

The researchers point out the study's limitations, like relying on parents' reports.

It's also unclear exactly how secondhand smoke, itself, would contribute to learning and behavioral problems. Some researchers have speculated that the smoke may affect certain chemicals in children's developing brains.

Whatever the reasons for the current findings, Alpert said they underscore the need to keep kids away from secondhand smoke.

"We still have 5 million children exposed to secondhand smoke at home," he said. "A lot of progress has been made in reducing that number, but there's still a lot left to be done."

A second study in the same journal suggests that kids' reactions to their parents' secondhand smoke may also play some role in their own likelihood of taking up the habit.

Researchers found that among 165 low-income preteens from smoking households, those who thought secondhand smoke was "unpleasant or gross" were 78 percent less likely than other kids to be at high-risk for smoking.

The study did not look at whether kids actually did take up the habit, but asked them whether they thought they might try it in the future.

Still, the researchers write, the findings suggest that children's sensitivity to secondhand smoke -- or lack thereof -- may help predict which ones are at greatest risk of trying cigarettes.


7 Responses
1310633 tn?1430227691
If you're going to smoke, fine with me.

BUT... don't smoke around your children, or anyone else's children for that matter.

I can't stand it when I see people in a car with their kids, smoking, with the windows up (or even cracked). It's disgusting.

I smoke, but even I don't smoke when I have passengers (adults OR kids). And if I'm smoking and I get a "look" from someone (you know the "look" I'm talking about), I'm EXTREMELY respectful of said "look", and I either move, or I stop.

Smoking is disgusting, I'll give you that, but smoking around children is plain criminal.
Avatar universal
Oh I would love a smoke about now! Seriously, if you are gonna smoke do it in fresh air only. I dont know if this article has any merit or not, but its just common sense. How would you like to be locked up in a sealed car with a smoker, or someone who dumps flowerly perfume on themself instead of taking a bath, or someone who had beans for dinner. Its just not a very considerate thing to do to another person, much less a small child that cannot get away from it.
1310633 tn?1430227691
"Beans for dinner..." Ha, ha;-)

Speaking of... I think someone needs to have a conversation with my dogs. They're collective nickname is "Tooter". They don't eat beans, but holy cow, you'd think that something died and crawled up inside their bumholes, the way they raise-the-roof!

I swear, it's FULL ON chemical warfare in my house! Who needs to fumigate when you have dogs like mine.

Toot, toot!!!
377493 tn?1356505749
I'm an on again off again smoker.  But only outside, never ever around my child or other children, and most definately not in the house or car.  You would think with all the information out there, people would know better.  We just passed a bylaw in our city that if you smoke with children in the car it's a big fine.  Makes me happy!
Avatar universal
I don't think any one of would argue that smoking in front of childern is uncalled for and smoking with them in the home or car wrong! But I'd be more apt to think it would raise the incidence of asthma related illness, and upper respitory ailments but behavior?? That doesn't sound quite right to me. I do think that the by-law for smoking in the car with kids in it is a real good idea! We need these laws because some idiots don't have any common sense!
377493 tn?1356505749
It doesn't really make sense that it would impact behaviour does it.  It didn't to me either.  But from what I have read, it sounds like the many chemicals secondhand smoke emits can actually alter the brain chemistry of a developing child.  Now, I have no idea if the websites I read with regards to this are credible, but it did make a bit more sense to me when I looked at it that way.  Either way, as you say, best to be avoided.
Avatar universal
It's only a correlational study, so there is no proof of cause and effect, but all we know is that there is a link between the two things(second hand smoke and behavioral problems). Though I wouldn't doubt that the chemicals in second hand smoke can alter a child's brain chemistry, which could easily lead to behavioral problems. If you google "effect of second hand smoke on children" you'll get many results about this topic. It is also posted on Webmd, among other sites. Though any way you look at it, second hand smoke and smoking in general is very unhealthy. Plus, those who have parents who smoke are more likely to smoke themselves(statistically speaking), which is more of a reason for parents to just quit smoking all-together.  I personally can't stand the smell of smoke and have slight asthma, so it makes it difficult for me to breathe if I am around a smoker.
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