I get it. It is difficult to resist the urge to smoke, especially if you have been doing this for a long time. And sure, you take care not to smoke in front of the child, lest he is affected by second-hand smoke. But are you aware that even if you smoke miles away from him, in your car with the windows rolled down, it can still affect him? This is called as third-hand smoking and it is as dangerous as it sounds.
How your child gets exposed to third-hand smoke
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When you smoke a cigarette, due to the burning of the tobacco in inadequate oxygen, many toxins are released. The real reason why someone smokes is to get a dose of nicotine. However, along with it, you also get an unhealthy dose of these toxins. According to the American Lung Association, there are 600 ingredients in a cigarette, and when it burns, it gives out at least 7000 chemicals. 69 of these are known to cause cancer and these include nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, acetone, ammonia, benzene just to name a few.
Well, many of these toxins are heavier than air and end up settling on your clothes. If you smoke in your car, they get deposited on the upholstery. And according to a study in Isreal, the deposits inside a car are far more than the deposits inside a bar! Imagine taking your child to a bar where everyone is smoking, and it is still safer than travelling with them in your car!
Effects of third-hand smoke on children
Image source: iStock
If you have noticed, the warning label on a pack of cigarettes has changed over time. Earlier, it used to read – smoking ‘may’ cause lung cancer. Now, they have dropped the ‘may’. This is because there is enough evidence that links lung cancer to smoking. However, that is not the only way smoking affects your body.
Nicotine acts on the arteries and veins of the body causing them to contract. The least you get is high blood pressure. In severe cases, the small blood vessels in the hands and legs go in a state of contraction causing numbness and severe pain. It also affects your heart, lungs, prostate, just to name a few vital organs.
But the worst effect cigarette smoke has on is children. Smoking in front of them increases the risk of them smoking a cigarette sooner in their lives. According to a study, the average age of a Singaporean child who has his first cigarette is just 12! But we are talking about third-hand smoke here. So let’s get the facts right.
The deposits on your clothes and in your car or even your bedroom enter the body of your child through contact. These toxins start acting on your child right away. According to Dr Laura Rosen, the lead researcher in the study mentioned earlier,
“Research has shown that children exposed to a single cigarette smoked in a car have increased biomarkers 24 hours following the exposure”
Over a period of time, even tiny exposures cause permanent damage to the developing heart and lungs of the child.
How to prevent this?
Quit smoking today to prevent your children from third-hand smoke
The simple and the most difficult answer to the question is – quit smoking. And, in fact, this might be the only way to prevent this from happening. Thankfully, there are therapeutic substitutes for cigarettes to kick the butt. Gums and patches help wean you from the addiction. However, the most important thing you need is motivation and support.
A cigarette may make you feel relaxed, however, it cannot make the problem at hand go away. So, in effect, it is not reducing your stress, it is just increasing your blood pressure in the long run. So quit smoking today. And if you need help, make use of extremely effective programmes like I Quit 28-Day Countdown by the Health Promotion Board.
Mums and dads, if not for yourself, at least do it for your children.
Also, read New blood pressure guidelines by the American Heart Association not for Singaporeans: MOH