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Living smoke-free with your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted December 22 2010 05:52pm
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Breathing in second-hand smoke causes over 1,100 deaths in Canadian non-smokers from lung cancer and heart disease every year. A Health Canada Report in 2007, noted that 7% of Canadian children under 12 years old were exposed to second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Although this number is dropping, it still means that about 300,000 children under age 12 continue to be exposed regularly to second-hand smoke. 

The good news is that most Canadian families agree they should avoid exposure to second-hand smoke in their home and car. Currently, four out of five (82%) Canadian homes already restrict smoking in some way and parents report there is general agreement about these restrictions among family members. Parents also report that the primary reason they want to cut back on the amount of second-hand smoke in their home is because of their children.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals which are known to be linked to cancer. Second hand smoke also contains these chemicals; 2/3 of the smoke from a burning cigarette remains in the environment such as a room or a car-the other 1/3 is inhaled by the smoker.  Third hand smoke also contains the same chemicals. This is the smoke that gets trapped in hair, skin, fabric, carpets, dust and toys; which accumulates over time. Babies and young children may take in more third hand smoke because they put their hands in their mouth and they spend more time playing on the floor.

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke because:

  • They breathe faster than an adult and will breathe in more air relative to their weight and, therefore, absorb more toxins. 
  • Their immune systems are less developed than an adult and their lungs are still developing. 
  • Their airways are smaller and more sensitive to impurities in the air. 
  • Children may not be able to move to a less smoky environment (e.g. get out of the car). 
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke in children has been linked with health problems such as colds and upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, croup, ear infections, asthma and allergies.  

What do these statistics mean to you as a parent? Well, for one thing, they mean that you are not alone. Across Canada, hundreds of thousands of families are struggling with the issue of second-hand smoke and are looking for ways to protect their children from its harmful effects. For a guide on how to make your home and car smoke free visit Health Canada’s website or visit The Canadian Lung Association website which has tips on how to protect yourself from Second and Third Hand Smoke.

Visit Health Canada's website for a Guide for Parents: Making Home and Car Smoke-Free.

 

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