There is a growing body of evidence that children’s exposure to smoking increases their risk of heart disease as an adult.
Researchers in a study out this week in the journal Circulation, found that simply having a parent who smoked, but tried to limit their child’s exposure to their smoking, increased a child’s risk of heart disease as an adult by nearly twice that of a child whose parents didn’t smoke at all.
For kids whose parents smoked in front of them, and didn’t really limit their exposure, their risk for heart disease was four times higher than children of non-smokers.
Researchers tracked more than 1,500 Finnish children over 20 years. First collecting data between 1980 and 1983, measuring the level of cotinine in their blood. Cotinine is left behind in the blood after nicotine exposure. The researchers then followed up again in 2001 and 2007 to measure the level of carotid plaque in the now grown adults. Those children who had measured with higher levels of cotinine also had higher levels of carotid plaque, as an adult. A build-up of the plaque can lead to heart disease.
“This paper adds to the evidence base that exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood increases risk of heart disease and adult,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 60% of children between the ages of 3 and 11 are exposed to second hand smoke, and they are most likely to be exposed to it at home.
To reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke, don’t smoke in front of children, choose child care providers and sitters who don’t smoke in front of children, and even if you don’t smoke in front of children, make sure to change your shirt after smoking, especially if you are going to be near children or infants.