According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on average children are exposed to more secondhand smoke than non smoking adults are and that’s pretty a pretty alarming statement! Whilst the UAE have made changes to where smoking is permitted in restaurants and other public areas, it has not adopted all of the stringent measurements we see in the UK. Yet. And in the U.S, it’s pretty bad; two out of every five children aged 3 to 11 are exposed to second hand smoke coming from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.

Scientific studies show that there can be around 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke; at least 250 are known to cause disease. They can be breathed in by anyone near a smoker. Some of these chemicals are: Tar, which has many chemicals in it some of which cause cancer, Carbon Monoxide which reduces the amount of oxygen in blood – so people can develop heart diseases (the amount of carbon monoxide is not enough to cause any immediate effects in passive smokers (such as feeling tired), but over a long time the effects can worsen heart disease), Poisons – including arsenic, ammonia and cyanide.

According to the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer, causing 22 per cent of global cancer deaths and 71 per cent of worldwide lung cancer deaths. Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times more likely to start smoking themselves and we know that passive smoking particularly leads to increased risk of children getting serious respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. So what does this mean for the next generation?

Studies show that children, whose parents smoke get ill more often, have more lung infections like bronchitis and pneumonia and are more likely to cough, wheeze, and have shortness of breath.

We spoke to Dr. Mohammed Zaheeruddin, Specialist Pediatrician at Medeor 24×7 Hospital in Dubai, who said clarified what exactly ‘Second hand smoking is’ – it’s the breathing in smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars and even shisha too. Dr Zaheeruddin concludes that if you are around smokers, you are in effect, smoking as well. 

He said “One cigarette contains more than 250 active carcinogenic chemicals, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide. Irrespective if you smoke or not, inhaling someone else’s smoke can be equally dangerous and can increase the risk of cancer and other health problems. Second hand smoke particularly harmful for children as their lungs are smaller than adults and children also breathe faster, hence are more susceptible to illnesses like cough, pneumonia, asthma and even bronchitis. It can also make asthma symptoms worse in children already suffering from asthma and trigger asthma attacks.”

Every year, in May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and it’s partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), to highlight the health  and additional risks associated with tobacco use, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. 

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 was “Tobacco – a threat to development.” The campaign demonstrated the threats that the tobacco industry poses to the sustainable development of all countries, including the health and economic well-being of their citizens. It proposed measures that governments and the public should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis.

“On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, I would urge parents to educate their children  about the harmful effects of passive smoking. Awareness about the adverse effects of smoking tobacco whether active or passive should start in early childhood so that the children are aware before stepping into something which can be life threatening later.”

Second hand smoking can cause chronic respiratory problems like asthma and chest infection in children. If you do smoke, you should seldom smoke in front of children – be it cigarette or shisha. “Sending your children to the other room when you want to smoke is not a great alternative either. We should have a smoke-free house and a smoke free car. 

Remember children learn the most from parents and hence it’s our duty to inculcate all the healthy habits in our children. And by doing this you are not only helping your children but other family members as well” said Dr. Mohamed Berer, the Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. For help to stop smoking, please visit your G.P who will explain what options can support you. 

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