Kids may not appear to develop conditions from second hand smoke when they’re being exposed to it in childhood. But, they can still experience respiratory problems later in life.

A new study finds that kids that are around second hand smoke can develop respiratory problems later in life.

Further research is needed to determine whether prenatal smoking exposure is a factor.

Don’t smoke around kids!

Dr. Juliana Pugmire MPH., DrPH., University of Arizona research specialist and lead author of this study, wants to know about the real long-term effects of second hand smoke on children’s respiratory systems.

The Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease (TESAOD) is a large longitudinal study that began collecting data in 1972 from 3,805 individuals from 1,655 homes in and around Tucson. Each person in the study completed a survey every 2 years until 1996. Dr. Pugmire’s team used the information from 371 people in the study that began participating in the study before the age of 15.

Dr. Pugmire states: “This study shows that exposure to parental smoking increase the risk of persistence of respiratory symptoms from childhood into adulthood independent of personal smoking. Persistent respiratory illness in childhood and young adulthood could indicate an increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and lung function deficits in later life.”

Researchers categorized the data as: asthma, wheeze, cough, and chronic cough (cough that continues for three months in a row or more).

Each person reported whether they did now or had in the past experienced any of these symptoms as well as whether or not their parent was a smoker.

52.3 percent of the 371 children had been exposed to second hand smoke in the home before the age of 15. Researchers did factor in whether or not the child grew up to become a smoker themselves.  

Dr. Pugmire says of their findings: “Persistent wheezing from childhood into adult life has been shown to be associated with lung function deficits. Chronic bronchitis (defined as chronic cough and phlegm) is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) development later in life."

"Therefore, the persistence of symptoms like chronic cough and wheeze into young adulthood may indicate a susceptibility to lung function deficits and chronic respiratory illness with age.”

The study, “Respiratory Health Effects Of Childhood Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke In Children Followed to Adulthood”, was presented at the 2012 American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Francisco.

This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), no conflicts of interest were found.

Smoking Cessation

The Centers for Disease Control lists tobacco use as the single most important preventable risk to human health, and one out of every five people in the United States are addicted to cigarettes, or about 61 million people. Smoking and tobacco use has been proven to cause heart disease, strokes, emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease, and cancer of the lungs, bladder, throat, mouth, and pancreas.

Quitting smoking is extremely difficult for most smokers. Some studies have compared the difficulty of quitting smoking as similar to that of quitting heroin or cocaine. Some people can just go 'cold turkey' and quit immediately. Many more have attributed their success in quitting by using nicotine replacement products, such as gums, lozenges, or patches, which allow the person to gradually wean themselves off nicotine while avoiding the toxic byproducts of smoking and helping them resist the urge to smoke. However, recent research has shown that these products may offer help with temporarily quitting, but eventually over 90% of the smokers relapse within six months.