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Study shows frequency of kids' exposure to second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke can cause health problems

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Many parents are on top of teaching their kids about the dangers of smoking. But what about second-hand smoke?

According to a recent study, a third of students from middle school up to high school seniors, are exposed to second-hand smoke regularly.

The study looked at data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey and found that 29 % of kids between sixth and twelfth grade said they were exposed to second-hand smoke within the past seven days.

“In this study, they saw when the students had someone in their household who was smoking, most of the exposure was actually at their home,” said Humberto Choi, M.D., who did not take part in the study. “But, when the kids did not have anyone in their house who smoked, exposure actually would happen in the car, in a vehicle, so it would most likely happen among peers or friends.” 

Second-hand exposure occurs when a person has been around someone who is smoking and is not smoking themselves.

Choi said second-hand smoke can cause health problems, like first-hand smoking.

The longer the exposure to the smoke is, and the more frequent it is, the higher the risk of pulmonary and heart consequences.

Choi said smokers who have children in their home are putting their children at risk.

He said cigarette smoke gets into clothing and furniture and the effects of the smoke can linger for everyone in the home who is exposed to it.

And when kids are exposed to cigarette smoke at a young age, the likelihood for longer-term consequences is higher.

“We actually see that secondhand exposure is associated with increased risk of lung disease and heart disease. It’s not as high as if you smoked cigarettes yourself but there’s definitely a risk compared to if you did not have that kind of exposure at all,” Cho said. 

Choi said it’s a good idea for parents to find out who their kids are riding with in a car. Then ask if they have a friend or a friend’s parent who smokes and advise them about the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Complete results of the study can be found in Preventive Medicine.