08 August 2006

Parents who smoke - give up smoking altogether

Babies absorb dangerous chemicals from parents who smoke, even if they take care to light up outside. Up to 90 per cent of the nicotine from cigarette smoke can stick to walls, clothes, hair and skin. The chemicals from this 'third hand smoke' can be swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin of non-smokers, putting babies at particular risk.

The youngsters absorbed the harmful chemicals simply from touching furniture in a smoker's house, or hugging their mothers after they had a cigarette. The risks of second-hand smoke are already known. Babies and children exposed to a smoky atmosphere are twice as likely to have asthma attacks and chest infections, and more likely to need hospital care in their first year of life. They are also at higher risk of cot death.

A nicotine byproduct called cotinine was found in the babies' urine and hair shafts even when their parents took care to smoke outside the house. This was seven times higher than levels found in babies with non-smoking parents. Parents of babies and young children should cut down, if not give up smoking altogether.

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