Passive Smoking - Children Don't Have a Choice!
©Jan Andersen 2000
Although most parents are aware of the harmful effects of maternal smoking, research shows that a high number of women who give up smoking during pregnancy resume the habit once their babies are born. You would not dream of placing a cigarette in your baby's mouth, yet children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are at risk of suffering from a range of physical and psychological disorders. Smoking can also impair fertility in both women and men, which is something to consider if you are planning a pregnancy.
I did not ask to have smoke blown directly into my face when I was seven months' pregnant. At the time, I was sat on a tube train opposite a woman who puffed away continuously like an out of control bonfire, yet she made no attempt to divert the passage of the smoke. "Freedom of choice", she would no doubt argue. Freedom to make life uncomfortable for others, freedom to predispose them to revolting, phlegmy diseases and freedom to ultimately put other people's lives at risk, including those of innocent, unborn children.
When I lived in Sweden, I had a friend who smoked regularly throughout her pregnancy. A pregnancy that lasted a mere six months. Her baby boy was born prematurely and lived for just two hours. My friend was told that her smoking had almost certainly contributed to what had happened. The guilt that she felt, and undoubtedly still feels, will remain with her for the rest of her life. Her son never had the chance to make a choice for himself and it was her choice that was responsible.
Hundreds of non-smokers die each year from smoking-related diseases, not to mention the 23% increased risk of heart disease if a non-smoker lives with someone who lights up regularly and an increased risk of having a stroke. Children are particularly susceptible.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, with nicotine and carbon monoxide playing a role in causing adverse pregnancy outcomes and at least 50 that cause, initiate or promote cancer in passive smokers. While not smoking in the house is better than smoking in the house for children, smoke will still be inhaled from parents' clothing, the car and household fabrics.
Following are just some of the effects on children of passive smoking:
· Children exposed to second-hand smoke develop more upper respiratory tract infections, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, infantile colic and middle ear infections than children who live with non-smokers. They are also at a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and cancer and are more likely to develop diabetes as adults
· Smoking during pregnancy can affect the future fertility of any female children, because tobacco smoke damages the developing fallopian tubes
· Pregnant mothers who smoke are more likely to go into labour prematurely, give birth to low birthweight babies or even stillborn babies
· Babies born to smokers are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death, because exposure to smoke slows a baby's arousal response.
· Recent research suggests that exposure of the unborn child to maternal smoking is a risk factor for conduct disorder, delinquency and autism
· Children are also at risk of death due to fires caused by cigarettes
Despite all the substantiation of the risks involved, some people will continue to smoke simply because, they will declare that, they "like it". And who am I to argue with that? However, I think that maybe this is an excuse that is used because they believe that they don't have the willpower to give up. I have spoken to many ex-smokers who have admitted that they used this defensive response, when really they would have given anything to be able to quit immediately. Many of them have also confessed that they didn't really enjoy smoking, but as with any drug, they were addicted.
Nevertheless, if a person who smokes regularly has a young family, then maybe they should look beyond their own, selfish desires and start considering the effect that they could be having on their most treasured gifts. Their children. Children who, like other non-smokers, don't have a choice.
Need help quitting? The following websites may be of help: