Secondhand Smoke Does Hurts Kids

Tobacco smoke exposure during childhood can cause respiratory problems later in life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Kids may not appear to develop conditions from secondhand smoke when they’re being exposed to it in childhood. But, they can still experience respiratory problems later in life.

A new study finds that kids that are around secondhand smoke can develop respiratory problems later in life.

Further research is needed to determine whether prenatal smoking exposure is a factor.

"Don’t smoke around kids!"

Dr. Juliana Pugmire MPH, DrPH, University of Arizona research specialist and lead author of this study, wants to know about the real long-term effects of secondhand smoke on children’s respiratory systems.

The Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease (TESAOD) is a large longitudinal study that began collecting data in 1972 from 3,805 individuals from 1,655 homes in and around Tucson. Each person in the study completed a survey every 2 years until 1996. Dr. Pugmire’s team used the information from 371 people in the study that began participating in the study before the age of 15.

Dr. Pugmire states: “This study shows that exposure to parental smoking increase the risk of persistence of respiratory symptoms from childhood into adulthood independent of personal smoking. Persistent respiratory illness in childhood and young adulthood could indicate an increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and lung function deficits in later life.”

Researchers categorized the data as: asthma, wheeze, cough and chronic cough (cough that continues for three months in a row or more).

Each person reported whether they now or had in the past experienced any of these symptoms as well as whether or not either parent was a smoker.

Of the 371 children, 52.3 percent had been exposed to secondhand smoke in the home before the age of 15. Researchers did factor in whether or not the children grew up to become smokers themselves.  

Dr. Pugmire says of their findings: “Persistent wheezing from childhood into adult life has been shown to be associated with lung function deficits. Chronic bronchitis (defined as chronic cough and phlegm) is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) development later in life."

"Therefore, the persistence of symptoms like chronic cough and wheeze into young adulthood may indicate a susceptibility to lung function deficits and chronic respiratory illness with age.”

The study, “Respiratory Health Effects Of Childhood Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke In Children Followed to Adulthood”, was presented at the 2012 American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Francisco.

This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 21, 2012
Last Updated:
August 2, 2012