CHILDREN exposed to tobacco smoke in their homes suffer higher rates of ADHD and stuttering, according to new research which adds to a growing list of impacts from passive smoking.
The US-based study, released at a conference in Sydney today, found children with exposure to tobacco smoke had roughly double the rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and stuttering. They also reported higher rates of headaches, when compared to children from non-smoking families.
Wendy Max, Professor of Health Economics at the University of California San Francisco, said the results showed how passive smoking could impact on a child’s overall health as well as learning and social development. “Our research shows children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are impacted in three different areas of their development,” Professor Max said.
“These physical and mental problems are a disadvantage to a child’s cognitive and social development.” The research took in children aged four to 15 years from smoking and non-smoking families.
The analysis took account of socioeconomic differences across smoking and non-smoking families, as well as the potential impact of smoking during pregnancy, to prevent a skewing of the results. Children exposed to second-hand smoke were found to have double the rate of ADHD (10.6 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent), almost double the rate of stuttering (6.3 per cent compared to 3.5 per cent) and an increased rate of headaches (14.2 per cent compared to 10.0 per cent).
Looking at headaches in teenagers only, the difference increased to 26 per cent for tobacco exposed teens compared to 20 per cent for those from non-smoking families. Prof Max said the trend of a rising smoking rate in developing nations ensured those countries less equipped to deal with the ramifications would bear an increasing burden. “Children in countries with high smoking prevalence are at greatest risk,” Prof Max said.
“As smoking rates in developed countries (such as Australia) continue to fall, the burden of childhood exposure to second-hand smoke will be disproportionately borne by countries that already face economic disadvantages.” Further impacts of childhood tobacco exposure include an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, increased rate of respiratory and lung disorders, higher risk of developing asthma and with more severe attacks, more cases of ear infection and a higher lifetime risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Cancer Council Australia chief executive, Professor Ian Olver, said there was a growing pool of research showing how smokers could also harm those living with them. “The right to a smoke-free childhood is a basic human right,” Professor Olver said. The research was presented at the Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health underway in Sydney this week.