Jump to content

Healthy Kids: For kids' sake, clear the air


Recommended Posts

http://www.ecnnews.com/cgi-bin/04/s/sst ... ailey.1227

Healthy Kids: For kids' sake, clear the air

By Dr. Edward Bailey

At this time of year, pediatrician's offices overflow with youngsters with colds, coughs, wheezing and fevers. Too often, these young patients end up in the hospital with complications that could have been prevented.

Exposure to cigarette smoke is considered the cause of numerous childhood illnesses and is responsible for increasing the severity of many others. Children living in homes where smoking is permitted are, in reality, passive smokers. In addition to breathing in the environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) that is breathed out by smokers, they inhale smoke expelled from the tip of burning cigarettes.

Passive smoking has harmful effects on everyone, especially children. ETS contains more than 4,000 chemicals that, when inhaled by children, may lead to serious health problems including bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and asthma at up to 10 times the rate seen in children who are not exposed to environmental smoke.

Smoking may even cause serious harm to children prior to birth. Women who smoke have increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth and low-birth-weight babies, and their infants have a higher rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Smokers have shared that there is nothing worse than a lecture about the evils of smoking delivered by an ex-smoker! Let me confess that, as a former smoker, I did not appreciate my wife's seemingly relentless anti-smoking lectures, however, 32 years after I kicked the habit, I still wish that I had never started. I am proud that I managed to stop (and never smoked again) when we discovered we were pregnant with the first of our three children.

Despite the well-publicized association between smoking and lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease — leading to more than 400,000 premature deaths every year — more than 3,000 young people join the ranks of regular smokers each day. Many begin to experiment with tobacco before the age of 11! In addition, at least 10 percent of high school students also experiment with smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco or "snuff"), seemingly unaware that that it is just as dangerous as cigarettes.

Smoking usually begins in adolescence and results in a lifelong addiction that is very difficult to break. Billions of dollars in cigarette advertising are directed toward children, suggesting that smoking is a cool and sexy behavior. Knowledgeable advertisers know that 90 percent of lifelong smokers begin and become addicted during the teen years.

Make no mistake, tobacco products containing nicotine and other chemicals have powerful addictive properties. Nicotine is delivered to the brain less than 20 seconds after the first puff on a cigarette, leading to the release of multiple hormones and the subsequent feeling of pleasure, reduced tension and enhanced performance. Nicotine is a powerful drug that accumulates in the body with each additional dose creating increased tolerance and need. Breaking the addiction, once established, is a major challenge.

As parents, we should try to "immunize" our children against tobacco use and avoid the conflicts and difficulties that come with addiction. Most importantly, as role models and as adults responsible for providing a safe environment, we should not smoke! Ask your children what they know about tobacco use and begin educating them while they are in elementary school regarding the hazards of tobacco. Teach them about addiction and the increased death rates related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Remind them that smoking leads to stained teeth, causes bad breath and frequently results in an ever-present, hacking cough. In addition, teach them that smoking limits the performance of young athletes, rather than enhancing performance, as they might have been led to believe.

The most important factors in the battle to prevent the use of alcohol tobacco and other drugs may be strong family ties, healthy self-esteem and feelings of success at school and in social settings. Let your children know they are important in your life and that their views count. Spend time with them, read with them and discuss with them the realities and absurdities of the programs they see on television. Most importantly, celebrate their successes and positively reinforce their good behavior.


Dr. Edward Bailey is the head of pediatrics at North Shore Children's Hospital and father of three. Send questions or comments to him in care of him at features@ecnnews.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.