Parents’ smoking causes lung illness in children – new evidence of link



Friday 10 October 1997

ASH/ Press releases/

 

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Press release10 October 1997 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

Parents’ smoking causes lung illness in children – new evidence of link

There is a causal relationship between parental smoking and acute lower respiratoryillness in their children. A new study published today in the specialist journal Thorax[1] has identified smoking in the home as a creating a 57-72% higher risk of respiratoryillnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia among infants under three years, The studyconcludes “the relationship between parental smoking and acute lower respiratoryillness in infants is very likely to be causal”. The lower figure is for smoking byeither parent and higher figure is for maternal smoking. The study made a systematicquantitative review of evidence from thirty eight surveys of respiratory illness in youngchildren to develop the risk factors given above [2].

In 1992, a report by the Royal College of Physicians [3] stated that “parentalsmoking is responsible for at least 17,000 admissions to hospital each year of childrenunder five”. The RCP also stated that “Passive smoking during childhoodpredisposes children to developing chronic obstructive airway disease and cancer asadults.” [Chronic obstructive airway disease includes emphysema and bronchitis.] Thenew study lends further weight to these findings.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“This study confirms that tobacco harms more than just the lungs of the smoker.Children’s lungs are very vulnerable and life-long damage may result from earlypassive smoking.”

“Many parents want to give up, but nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug andcigarettes are heavily promoted by tobacco companies. The industry is trying to base itscase to continue tobacco promotion on civil liberties arguments, but they never mentionthe civil liberties of children.”

[1] Strachan DP, and Cook DG, Parental smoking and lower respiratory illness in infancyand early childhood, Thorax 1997; 52: 905-914.

[2] The risks are expressed as ‘pooled odds ratios’ of 1.57 and 1.72 -meaning the likelihood of the disease is 57% or 72% higher in the smoking group than inthe control group (non-smokers). The study also states that: “The associations withparental smoking are robust to adjustment for confounding factors.”

[3] Royal College of Physicians, Smoking and the Young, 1992.

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Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902

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