Home Health Smoking Effects on Children

Smoking Effects on Children

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion & Recommendations
  • References


Every cigarette comes with a health warning about the dangers of smoking. This is an important message for consideration since smoking harms both the smoker and the people around him or her. These innocent bystanders especially include children whose physical vulnerability to such chemical impurities in the atmosphere is much higher than that of adults. Furthermore, unlike adults, they are not able to change their surroundings and consciously choose environments free of smokers. They are passive targets of the poisonous smoke that cigarettes produce, unable to protect themselves (McNeal, 2007). Due to this reason, the passive intake of cigarette smoke is most likely to harm unborn children and children up to the age of twelve.

            The schools, parents, and other caregivers are in charge of the children in the aforementioned age categories. These adults are accountable for caring for the health and wellbeing of these children, and thus they should make an effort to protect the children from the effect of harmful substances such as cigarettes (McNeal, 2007). Furthermore, they need to be wary of how impressionable children are to the actions of adults around them and therefore need to avoid smoking around their children.

            Apart from this, children usually prefer spending time outside, exposed to the open atmosphere which may contain harmful airborne chemicals such as nicotine. This puts them at an exceptionally high risk since research shows that the time children spend outside playing sports and other such games, is three times greater than that spent by an adult. This increases their exposure to and intake of harmful and polluted air. This results in damage to the children’s lungs, as they are more susceptible to involuntary smoking. Such exposure has several harmful effects on these growing children, often leading to high levels of lead and calcium in their blood. Furthermore, the inhaled nicotine can alter the blood glucose level and insulin absorption levels of a person, thus increasing the risk of diabetes (Hanas, 2007).

Smoking Effects on Children


Smoke may harm a child’s health in three ways: via maternal smoking, breathing secondhand smoke from the environment, and inheriting their parents’ smoking habits. Smoking by mothers is the primary cause of child illness and mortality, owing to the respiratory problems it creates, such as asthma. Another significant factor contributing to the worsening of health in young children is environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), which causes them to inhale smoke particles and get ill. Passive smoking is another name for ETS (ACSH, 2009).

Smoking affects children adversely no matter how young they are. This is especially true for children who have parents who smoke. Since childbirth, the children observe their elders and adopt their bad habits such as of smoking. They are also vulnerable to passive smoking in this case. Finally, smoking mothers often give birth to underweight babies. They also face a large amount of complications at childbirth, such as miscarriages, stillborn children, premature childbirth, and even death due to childbirth (Bonnie, 2007).

According to studies, smoking moms increase their children’s chance of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by up to 40%. When a healthy baby dies away suddenly while sleeping, it is known as SIDS. Infants between the ages of one and six months are the most often affected (Lung USA, 2009). To prevent such serious consequences, parents should stop smoking throughout pregnancy and even after delivery.

Furthermore, children have a 20 percent greater chance of being born underweight if their mother has been exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy (Lung USA, 2009). It can also result in congenital birth defects in newborns. Moreover, these children are born with weaker immune systems and less resistance in their bodies, which makes them unhealthy and slower in learning how to speak and listen. These problems translate into slower development when these children are growing, making them unable to keep up with the learning rates of other children in their age groups. Furthermore, these children have a greater chance of having weaker lungs, which exposes them to a higher chance of getting cancer, having a weak sense of smell, and developing heart diseases once, they are older (HWS, 2009).

Additionally, studies have indicated several other ways in which maternal smoking harms the infant involved. One such way is by reducing the oxygen supply to the fetus by around 200 grams, thus causing the infant to be born underweight. The greater the number of cigarettes that the mother smokes, the more likely the child is to be underweight. This harms not only the child’s health but also the mother’s chances of having healthy deliveries in the future. The reason for the baby being born underweight is that the mother inhales a large amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide when she smokes, which causes tissue hypoxemia. This low weight also increases the risk of the child dying, because he or she is internally weaker and less mentally capable, making them less likely to survive in the outside environment (ACSH, 2009).

Another major problem that maternal smoking causes is growth impairment, especially related to height. Research shows how it can result in these children being around two centimeters shorter than children with nonsmoking parents. They also perform more poorly in intelligence tests (ACSH, 2009). Furthermore, another negative result of maternal smoking is a higher chance of the child suffering from hyperactivity. These problems occur because smoking alters the germ cells in the parents, making their children more susceptible to complications whether they inhale the smoke through their mother’s womb or not.

Even if the parents or caregivers smoke after delivery, smoking has many detrimental health consequences on the kid. This includes parents as well as the paramedic staff at the hospital. The smoke can be poisonous to the child’s health. Thus a parent, who wishes to save their children from any such endangerment, should avoid smoking near their children. Apart from this, the child also ingests the poisonous chemicals while breastfeeding, which has several mental and physical repercussions on the child’s health (ACSH, 2009).

Passive smoking is also detrimental to the wellbeing of the child. This happens when the child breathes in the harmful toxins with which smoking pollutes the air. Four thousand such harmful chemicals are present in a cigarette, including poisonous chemicals such as formaldehyde and monoxide. These chemicals are notoriously dangerous, due to their link with the occurrence of cancer. This includes Benzpyrene, which damages and destroys a gene in the body that performs the function of fighting the growth of cancerous cells.

According to the approximations made by WHO, 700 million children inhale poisonous polluted air. Furthermore, a study showed how that a child who spends an hour in a very smoky room would breathe in the same smoke that 10 cigarettes would give off (Martin, 2008). This effect is magnified as far as children are concerned, because a child’s breathing rate is faster than that of an adult’s, making them more vulnerable to lung diseases, especially cancer. The nicotine one breathes in, penetrates the blood vessels within ten seconds through the lungs, and gives the person a momentary pleasurable feeling. This creates a nicotine addiction in the child, which can lead to their taking up smoking at a very young age.

No responsible caregiver will wish to expose their children to an environment that is polluted by tobacco and nicotine. While several of these caregivers try their best to ensure the safety of their children, it is impractical to make an environment completely free of smoke. Such environments especially include eateries, schools, markets, and playgrounds. They are all places, which children visit frequently, and yet it is not possible to keep their atmosphere completely smoke-free. The toxic content of the air in these places can have large detrimental effects on the health and growth of these children (Martin, 2008). Their immune systems are weaker as compared to that of an adult, thus making them more vulnerable to more immediate effects that one may not notice right away. This can lead to an eventual deterioration of the child’s health, which the parents may not notice towards the start.

At home and at school, the kid is most exposed to passive smoking. Their role models are often their parents, other family members, and instructors, which means that these role models’ lifestyles have a major impact on these youngsters (McNeal, 2007). Thus, the attitude that these family members and teachers have towards smoking has a very large bearing on the attitude towards smoking that these children develop over time. Research shows how a child with parents who are both smokers, faces twice as much risk of lung and respiration diseases, due to the environment to which they are exposed. The same children also face a higher risk of behavioral problems and learn to consider smoking in a more favorable light (HWS, 2009).

Another frequent consequence of this exposure is that youngsters begin smoking at a young age and hide it from their parents. They see it as a social tool that helps them become more popular and likable. Such a mindset does not go away on its own, and it often persists into maturity (Martin, 2008). Thus, a caregiver who smokes in front of their children is greatly endangering the present and future wellbeing of the child. The smoke that the child will passively inhale stunts the child’s growth. In addition, even if the parents do not smoke, they must ensure that their elder children do not smoke either, because their younger children are likely to be influenced by their elder siblings.

Furthermore, Disorders linked to smoking are the biggest cause of mortality in the globe. It’s crucial to discourage smoking from the start, since if a kid develops a tolerance for smoking at a young age, he or she will not change their minds as they become older (HWS, 2009). The simplest way to avoid such smoking related hazards is to protect your children from environments with smokers. However, parents often fail to do so, which allows smoking to cause dangerous diseases such as asthma, cancer, learning disabilities, and pneumonia. The most common amongst these is asthma, and is the result of second hand smoking. It deteriorates both, the child’s physical and mental health. This can affect their ability to keep up with their peers at school as well (Bonnie, 2007).

Furthermore, research shows that the largest factor responsible for premature deaths in history is tobacco use. Unfortunately, it is also the most advertised product, and is inadequately regulated. Because such items are readily available to youngsters, a significant percentage of children begin smoking at an early age. The media also has an impact on their attitudes about tobacco, making it seem more acceptable to them (HWS, 2009). Children who have not observed cigarette use at home can very well witness it on television programs and commercials. This often leads to them trying the product out of curiosity, ultimately leading to addiction before they even turn 18. Projections show that if this rate continues, smoking will end up killing up to 250 million of the children who are healthy at present (Lung USA, 2009).

Conclusion & Recommendations

As social responsibility gains increasing importance in society, authorities plan to introduce several acts and regulations that forbid smoking in areas that children visit often, such as shopping malls and playgrounds, and discourage advertising of cigarettes in films. However, Director-General Dr Ala Alwan stated that an average of a hundred thousand young people become chain smokers every day. Thus, parents and other caregivers should take actions against this emerging pattern, by creating awareness about the negative side effects of smoking (Martin, 2008).

Young children under the age of 12 are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of smoking due to their developing bodies. The numerous health concerns it causes such as asthma, pneumonia, and pulmonary bronchitis are largely responsible of high absenteeism of students from school.

 A child living in a household consisting of smokers will also face the threat of having high levels of Cotanine in their blood, as well as more chances of getting middle ear infections. These children also face 40 percent more risk of remaining absent from school during a respiratory infection (Martin, 2008). This statistic seems graver in light of the fact that 60 percent of the children between 3 and 11 years passively breathe in smoke. This is a large cause of asthma, which explains why around 20 percent of young asthma patients in the United States have a history of passive smoking (HWS, 2009). In addition, 40 percent of young asthma patients experience a worsening in their condition when they passively inhale cigarette smoke. They also perform poorly on logical reasoning, reading and math tests than other children, and find it more difficult to settle in their social environment (HWS, 2009).

According to research, these harmful consequences are caused not only by inhaled cigarette smoke, but also by smoke particles that cling to the smoker’s body, clothing, fixtures, and furniture. These particles may be inhaled by children, resulting in severe consequences. Furthermore, tobacco contains approximately 250 hazardous compounds that a kid may inhale passively if they are in close proximity to a smoker. Poisoning of this kind happens at a very low rate, making identification difficult until the child’s health deteriorates (Hanas, 2007).

Authorities have done little to address the many harmful consequences of smoking on youngsters. Even if the environment is kept clean and smoke-free at public places such as restaurants, only parents can truly minimize these risks, by educating their children at home about the harmful effects of smoking. Apart from discouraging young children to make smoking a habit, authorities should also give due attention to the effects of ETS (Dossey, 2008).

Another way in which authorities can prevent these young children from taking up smoking is by restricting the sales of cigarettes in shopping malls and other such areas, creating awareness about the adverse effects of smoking at home and banning smoking at schools. The awareness campaign should also reach out to pregnant mothers and their medical caregivers, about the harms of maternal smoking (Dossey, 2008).

To spread this awareness, the authorities can use several different tools such as school awareness programs, televised public service messages and media interventions. They should highlight how the harms of smoking are not limited to the physical and psychological side, but also the financial side. The authorities may highlight this financial cost of smoking to parents, in order to convince them against smoking (Bonnie, 2007). Through all these manners, responsible parties may curb the above-mentioned numerous negative side effects that cigarettes have on children’s health.

  • ACSH, The American Council on Science and Health, official website. (2009). Long-term problems in children of mothers who smoke. Retrieved on May 28, 2012: http://thescooponsmoking.org/xhtml/effects/children-of-smokersGW.php#top
  • Bonnie, R. J., National Academies Press. (2007). Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation. National Academies Press.
  • Dossey, Barbara Montgomery. Keegan, Lynn. (2008). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  • Hanas, R. (2007). Type 1 Diabetes in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults: How to Become an Expert on Your Own Diabetes. Class Publishing (London) Ltd.
  • HWS. (2009). Passive Smoking and Children, the negative effects of secondhand smoke on children. Retrieved on May 28, 2012: http://www.helpwithsmoking.com/passive-smoking/passive-smoking-and-children.php
  • Lung USA. (2009). Tobacco Control. Retrieved on May 28, 2012: http://www.lungusa.org/site/c.dvLUK9O0E/b.22937/k.A576/Tobacco_Control.htm
  • Martin, T. (2008). Secondhand Smoke and Children, How Secondhand Smoke affects a Child.
  • Retrieved on May 28, 2012: http://quitsmoking.about.com/od/secondhandsmoke/a/smokeandkids.htm
  • McNeal, J. U. (2007). On becoming a consumer: the development of consumer behavior patterns in childhood. Butterworth-Heinemann.

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