A personal choice: smoking tobacco or your kid’s health?

Staff at Liverpool’s  Alder Hey Children’s Hospital claimed in a BBC
Panorama programme,  (Spoilt Rotten? BBC
One, Tuesday, 13 April ) that it was costing them over £1 million annually  to treat preventable diseases in children.  I picked up on this report via Radio 4: my
ears pricked up as I had a pretty good idea what those diseases would be, and I
was right: obesity, passive smoking-related illness, alcohol consumption and
tooth decay.

On May 4 its World Asthma Day and on May 31, its World No Tobacco
Day
: in respect of child health, these two issues are related. Passive smoking
(breathing in second-hand smoke) is a leading cause of asthma in children. In
the UK alone, over 15,000 children (age 3-16 years) annually are diagnosed with asthma
due to second-hand smoke.  Passive
smoking also causes chest and ear infections: add these cases to those of
asthma, and you have in the UK a staggering 165,000 children become ill because their relatives smoke!

In the developed world, smoking bans have had their effect,
and  tobacco smoking adults are
declining, though still an issue for 
children (passive smoking and teenage smokers) and  for all ages in Eastern
Europe. But there are high rates of tobacco use in countries such
as China and India,  as
well as concerns that  tobacco use may
take root in Africa. Projected figures for
2030 are 6 million annual tobacco-related deaths in developing countries, 80%
of the world total. $375 million dollars from the Bloomberg & Gates
Foundations
have been committed over the next five years to address this,
working to implement proven tobacco-control strategies.

Tobacco control is a tangled web of health, politics and
economics…IDRC Canada recently lost a major grant from GATES Foundation
because it turned out that Barbara J. McDougall was heading their board and, at
the same time, was on the board of Imperial Tobacco Canada (part of BAT)!

 It will be no surprise then that the Global Health Knowledge Base dashboard in May will be devoted to
the health of teenage smokers and  of children who
spend time in the company of adult smokers, passively breathing in their smoke.
 Research evidence suggests that
antioxidants from fruit & vegetables can mitigate some of the damage you
inflict on your own system as a smoker, but only giving it up will protect your
nearest and dearest!

References from Global Health

  1. Passive smoking and
    children
    , Tobacco advisory group, Royal College Physicians, March 2010.
  2. Which
    population level environmental factors are associated with asthma,
    rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema?
    Review of the ecological analyses of ISAAC
    Phase One.
  3. Asthma
    prevalence and risk factors in schoolchildren of the city of São Paulo, Brazil
    .
  4. Cigarette
    smoking prevalence among school-going adolescents in two African capital
    cities:Kampala Uganda
    and Lilongwe Malawi. African Health Sciences 2007, 7,No.1, 45-49.
  5. Polymorphisms
    in inflammation genes, tobacco smoke and furred pets and wheeze in
    children
    .
  6. Multivitamins, folate, and
    green vegetables protect against gene promoter methylation in the
    aerodigestive tract of smokers
    .

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