Recently, I’ve been hearing more about pregnant women (usually in the mid-20’s age-range) in my client’s lives and even in my own life who are still smoking. And family practice phyisicians have shared with me their concerns about how a child in a smoking household is more prone to respiratory and inner ear issues than children in a non-smoking household as a result of smoke exposure.
At a time when more people don’t smoke than do, this trend of younger women smoking during pregnancy or with young children in the home is disturbing. But hypnotherapists know that smoking is not an intellectual decision, it is usually an emotional one. With so much information available about the risks of smoking, if it were only an intellectual decision, this would not be the case. Hopefully this information will enlighten someone and help them to make a better choice for themselves and for their families.
“Passive smoking” means breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke (whether exhaled or drifting from the tip of their lit cigarette.) Infants and children are particularly at risk of serious health effects from secondhand smoke.
Just for a moment, imagine a loved one just finishing a cigarette break. They walk into your room to check on you as your infant self, pick you up from your crib and say “goo goo” to you. As they exhale, they release the exhaled smoke into your face. You breathe it in to your tiny lungs, they lay you down to take your nap. You have trouble breathing and even worse…your tiny lungs are full of stale smoke… That’s what happens with passive smoking. Everyone in the vicinity breathes the exhaled air. The difference is that newborns don’t have the immune system or the lung capacity to defend themselves that an adult has. And they aren’t given the choice whether they choose to smoke or not.
Health risks to infants and children
According the U.S. Surgeon General “Exposure to secondhand smoke among children remains a major public health problem… We now have clear evidence that only completely smoke-free environments can eliminate second-hand smoke exposure and its related risks. We need to apply this knowledge to educate parents to take action…”
The health risks to children exposed to passive smoking are great and far reaching. It’s different for children because they don’t have the same choice to walk away that adults do. Often the child is a passenger in a car on living in the home with the person who smokes. Children are taught to listen to adults so it’s more difficult for them to stand up to their caretaker. Oftentimes they learn to “tolerate” the smoke rather than escaping it. Also children of smokers are more likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents and other role models in their lives who smoke.
Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of environmental tobacco smoke. Some of the many health risks of second-hand smoke in a smoking household include:
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or crib death). Studies have shown that:
- Infants having been exposed to nicotine and passive smoke are more at risk to SIDS because they don’t have the same response mechanism that normally allows them to turn their head in response to low oxygen;
- Maternal smoking is a strong risk factor leading to SIDS;
- In many instances infants who die from SIDS have a higher concentration of nicotine in their lungs;
- Increased exposure to oxygen blockers such as carbon monoxide, contribute to oxygen deprivation, while increased exposure to toxic chemicals such as benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde, arsenic and nicotine create health risks to an undeveloped immune system and young developing body.
First 18 months of life:
- Increased exposure to smoke containing known carcinogens. When hot smokey air cools, it settles in a room like a low-lying cloud affecting the breathing space of children and pets on the ground level;
- An increased risk of developing respiratory illnesses including wheezing, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia;
- More prone to getting colds, coughs and middle ear infections;
- More likely to have lungs that show a reduced ability to function and slower growth.
Young children and School-aged Children:
- More likely to develop asthma symptoms, have more asthma attacks and use asthma medications more often and for a longer period;
- Symptoms such as cough, phlegm, wheeze and breathlessness;
- Deficits in learning in areas of reading, math and visiospacial reasoning;
- Increased risk of meningitis, which can sometimes cause death or disability;
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disorders.
So if you smoke, be aware that it’s not just about your own health, please consider how you could be affecting those around you, including pets, who also breathe in the air you exhale. You might even ask yourself, would now be a good time to take the plunge and join the other smokers who have now quit?