Warning over passive smoking threat to children

Children are still being exposed to major health risks by adults continuing to smoke tobacco in homes and cars, a new survey revealed today.

The affect on adults from inhaling second-hand toxic smoke has dropped since the smoking ban came into effect but one fifth of smokers still light up a cigarette every day at home while children are present.

A survey from the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) revealed only three out of 10 smokers with children keep their house ‘smoke-free’.

Ahead of tomorrow’s National No Smoking Day, Norma Cronin, the society’s health promotion manager, said: “We are seriously concerned by these findings and so, for National No Smoking Day this year, the Irish Cancer Society is launching a new booklet, ‘Growing up smoke-free’, which highlights the importance of protecting the younger generation from the dangers of second-hand smoke, particularly in the home and in the car.”

The society’s survey of 1,200 people throughout the country showed there was poor understanding among some smokers over the established health risks second-hand smoke has on children, as well as the role-model effect of encouraging them to smoke.

Around 30% of smokers did not believe or were not sure whether second-hand smoke could increase the likelihood of coughing, wheezing or chest infections in children. Half of those surveyed were not sure or did not believe children were twice as likely to smoke if a parent smoked.

With smoking blamed for causing 30% of all cancers, around three-quarters were not convinced second-hand smoke can increase the risk of cot deaths. Around 82% were not aware of the risks smoke posed of causing middle ear infections in children.

Ms Cronin said: “Since the introduction of the smoking ban in March 2004, employees and the public have been protected from the harmful and toxic effects of second-hand smoke in the workplace but many of our children, who are particularly vulnerable to the harm as their organs and immune systems are not fully developed, are still at risk.”

The health promotion manager said many smokers seem to believe the hazard of second-hand smoke is reduced by measures including opening a window, smoking in another room or only smoking when the children are not actually present in the house.

“But we know that none of these measures is as effective as restricting the smoking to outdoors,” she said.

As part of National No-Smoking Day, the society said its National Smokers’ Quitline on 1850 201 203 will be open to advise those wishing to quit, and will offer tips on minimising children’s exposure to second-hand smoke.

Professor Luke Clancy, chairman of ASH Ireland, said he was seriously concerned at the growth in the number of smoking rooms in many pubs in Dublin and around the country.

The chairman said as many people try to quit smoking this Ash Wednesday, the vintners trade was showing its determination to encourage smoking by evading the workplace legislation.

Prof Clancy said: “The smoking legislation was designed to protect. ‘Smoking rooms’ are being developed by vintners – in which all customers smoke. These rooms are being served by staff in what is in many cases a toxic carcinogenic reservoir. This runs totally contrary to the legislation – and I urge the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to put a stop to this practice.”

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