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Smoking at Home: Not with Children, Please

Por: | 04 de diciembre de 2013


By Rosa Martínez, University of Barcelona Press

Parents who smoke should be aware of the risk it signifies for the health of their children. Much more effort is still needed to change social attitudes and persuade parents to not smoke at home. If you need more reasons to stop smoking at home, consider the following data: tobacco consumption must be decreased by 15%, particularly at home, in order to reduce the number of childhood asthma cases.

Asthma is the most common chronic illness during childhood and adolescence in industrialized countries. Unfortunately, there is no treatment to cure this illness, which may considerably decrease one’s quality of life. Its prevalence has been increasing over the last 40 years in many countries but no statistical or simulation model existed to forecast the evolution of childhood asthma in Europe.

Smoke Is in the Air

Scientists from the University of Barcelona (UB) and Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) have developed a new statistic model — based on the theory of conditional probability — to forecast the risk of childhood asthma episodes. The model includes several risk factors and has been designed with the data obtained from scientific literature and the project Asthma Multicenter Infant Cohort Study (AMICS), developed by IMIM researchers to analyse the relationship between environmental factors and childhood asthma development.

Simulation models are tools that may contribute to develop more effective health policies in the field of public health. “The new statistic model indicates that childhood asthma incidence is stable. Tobacco consumption in adults is stable too; 22 – 23% of them are smokers. If this percentage, particularly the number of smoking parents, does not decrease significantly, the prevalence of childhood asthma will not be reduced”, warns Toni Monleón Getino (UB).


Children Have Little Choice in Tobacco Matters

Several factors have been proposed to explain asthma in children. According to Martín Ríos (UB), “Asthma is an illness caused by several factors (genetic propensity, environment, food, etc.), and tobacco triggers asthmatic crisis in children”. “In other words”, says Ríos, “the relationship between tobacco and asthma is not a cause/effect one, but tobacco, even environmental smoke or smoke that remains on clothes, favours asthma episodes in children”.

Laws banning smoking in Spain have reduced the incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma in adults in the last years. But this reduction has not produced any remarkable effect on asthma incidence among children; maternal smoking and environmental tobacco smoke continue to be main menaces that induce new cases of asthma.

Many countries do not have enough measures to avoid children’s exposure to tobacco. “There is no doubt that smoking and respiratory diseases in children are related; many children continue to be exposed to tobacco at home. It is necessary to improve health policies and raise society’s awareness; efforts on the fight against tobacco, particularly at home, must be stronger”, concludes Monleón Getino. The team led by Oriol Vall, from the Childhood and Environment Research Group of IMIM, also collaborates in the study.

The group of experts do not doubt the correlation between smoking and respiratory diseases in children. Even if it is difficult to prove that alterations in respiratory functions begin to occur in the foetus or that they appear later, during lactation, altered respiratory function has been found in those children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy, even if they do not continue smoking after giving birth. Raising awareness about the effects that smoking has on children can lead to increased respiration function and a higher quality of life for children who cannot voice their own needs.

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