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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Child risk from passive smoking

2nd June 2008

Secondary tobacco smoke in the home may not just increase the likelihood of childhood infection: it may also compromise the immune systems of children exposed to it.


Recent research published on the website of the journal Tobacco Control found that children exposed to second hand tobacco smoke are more likely to get severe infectious diseases and have to be admitted to hospital.

The increased risk did not just apply to respiratory illness, but to the whole gamut of possible childhood infections, including meningococcal disease.

Premature or low birth weight babies who were exposed to secondary tobacco smoke in the first few months of life were the most vulnerable, the study found.

The research team looked at data relating to 7,042 children born in Hong Kong in April and May 1997, examining the files for any relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and first admission to hospital for any infectious diseases.

They then followed the children in the study until they were eight years old.

They found that those children who had been exposed to someone smoking within three metres of them during their first few months of life were the most at risk of being admitted to hospital. One in three of this group had been admitted to hospital before they were a year old.

And exposure to secondhand smoke during the first six months of life increased the likelihood of being admitted to hospital for an infectious disease during the eight years by almost 45%.

Low birth weight infants were 75% more likely to be admitted to hospital with an infectious disease by the age of eight, while those who were premature were twice as likely.

The researchers concluded that secondary exposure to tobacco smoke might compromise the immune system, as well as affecting the respiratory systems of infants and young children through direct contact with the respiratory tract.

Premature infants and those with a low birth weight might be more at risk, because their respiratory and immune systems were less well developed, they said.

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