British Parents Don't Know Smoking Harms Children
LONDON (Reuters Health) - Many British parents are unaware that exposing children to tobacco smoke has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and other diseases, a survey released Thursday reveals.
The poll of 2,040 adults conducted for SmokeFree London showed that just 3% of parents knew that SIDS has been scientifically linked to parents who smoke. Only 24% were aware that asthma could be another result of passive smoking.
The low awareness of the risks means that parents do not do enough to limit their children's exposure to smoke, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). The charity has produced a report on the impact of passive smoking on children's health, also released on Thursday to coincide with World No Tobacco Day.
Figures from the World Health Organization show that infants are at five times greater risk of SIDS if their mothers smoke, ASH notes. Children exposed to cigarette smoke at home are also at 20% to 40% increased risk of asthma.
``Ultimately, parents need to acknowledge that they have a responsibility to protect their children,'' ASH's research manager, Amanda Sandford, told Reuters Health in an interview.
``Currently, 17,000 children are hospitalised every year as a result of passive smoking,'' she said, adding bronchitis, glue ear and other diseases are experienced by ``children who are forced to breathe in adults' tobacco smoke.'' Glue ear is a type of middle ear inflammation characterized by sticky fluid that accumulates.
``Clearly the best way to eliminate children's exposure to passive smoking is for parents to stop smoking and to make their home smoke-free. However, if parents can't or won't quit, there are practical steps they can take--such as not smoking in the presence of their child--to minimise children's exposure to tobacco smoke,'' she said in a statement.
The ASH report shows that in other countries, parents are taking notice of public health campaigns and taking steps to limit their children's exposure to smoke. ``In Australia, for example, the percentage of smokers who restricted smoking in their homes rose from 2% in 1989 to 32% in 1997,'' the charity said in a statement.
``But the problem in the UK is, we don't know'' what parents do to limit their children's exposure to smoke, Sandford told Reuters Health. She said that although the current Labour government had put a lot of money into helping people to stop smoking, an expanded two-pronged approach is needed, combining mass media campaigns about the risks of smoking around children with more smoking cessation efforts.
``Current government campaigns, such as the 'Sure Start' initiative should include guidance on dealing with passive smoking in the home,'' she said in a statement. ``Around half of women who quit smoking during pregnancy start again after the birth of their child. Many mothers simply do not realise that their smoking is likely to harm their baby.''