Do children of smokers develop lung-related issues early in life?

Published on: 2 June 2022, 11:00 am IST

Children, who are passive smokers to their parents, get exposed to much worse levels and quality of smoke than the smoker himself.

smoking side effects
Think twice about smoking, especially around a child! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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When smokers inhale the smoke, it passes through the filter, and some of the toxic materials are prevented by the filter to enter their lungs. But when they smoke indoors or when they exhale, that smoke without the benefit of passing through the filter, is inhaled by children, wives, and other family members who are around them. This secondhand smoke is injurious to a kid’s health.

To break it down, let us understand that the passive smoker inhales smoke coming directly from the cigarette, whereas the smoker actually inhales the smoke which is passing through the filter. As a result, passive smokers get exposed to much worse levels of smoke or quality of smoke than the smoker himself.

Children who are around in the house, inhale secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking. Additionally, when this smoke settles on the ground, it gets stuck to the surfaces like sofas, carpets, curtains, etc. and when toddlers and infants play on these surfaces, they tend to inhale it, which is known as tertiary smoking. These particles have toxic chemicals which start damaging the lungs of the children from the age the exposure starts.

smoking
Smoking is injurious to your health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also, read: World No Tobacco Day 2022: 4 reasons why you need to quit smoking

However, the extent of damage depends on the extent of exposure. If somebody smokes 40 cigarettes a day at home for a longer period of time, the children of such people have more damaged lungs in comparison to someone smoking 4 cigarettes and staying at home for 2 hours. The exposure and the duration ultimately determine the damage caused to the children.

So how does secondhand smoke affect children?

The smoke inhaled impacts the child’s lung growth. The cigarette has toxic chemicals that damage the lungs and over a long period of time, say 20-25 years of exposure, leads to lung cancer in some cases. The smoke also causes inflammation in the lining of the windpipe and the lungs. Children of smokers who are exposed to continuous cigarette are suspected to get asthma and have higher incidents of pneumonia and viral chest infections. Over a period of time, many of them become long-term asthmatics and have a higher chance of suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) later in life, just like smokers.

Additionally, the smoke tends to stimulate and make someone hyperactive and overexcited, which in children affects their emotional development also. Children then tend to become restless and irritated easily.

problems due to smoking
Save your lungs and your children’s development from the side effects of smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Are the children of smokers have a chance to take up smoking?

Sometimes children try to emulate their parents and their habits. So, if a child from a younger age sees that his or her father is smoking, it may result in curiosity in the children at first . And that may result in a habit that may pass on to the future generations as well.

Does smoking affect foetus as well?

When a pregnant woman smokes heavily in her first and second trimester, it leads to the presence of a highly toxic chemicals in her blood, which is likely to impact the development of organs of the baby. Such women are known to have higher birth defects in their children. If the woman smokes during her third trimester, it may lead to birth defects, intrauterine deaths, and premature deliveries.

Can constant exposure to smoke affect lung development?

It is a proven fact that children, who are exposed to cigarette smoke and very high level of polluted air, harm the lung development the children. It further leads to 10-20 percent or less growth of the lungs as compared to their counterparts who were not exposed to cigarette smoke or polluted air.

How to support those who are trying to quit smoking?

The most important point of intervention for children of smokers is the school as it is the early teens when most smokers start smoking for trial and it soon turns into a habit and addiction in their 20s. Educating children how the smoke affects the lungs is an important step that prepares them to not take up the habit.

In addition, parents have to be careful that their children maintain a distance from the smoke when they go to out as well. It is very important to rigidly implement the non-availability of cigarettes, in at least 200 meters of territory, around the school.

Dr Arvind Kumar Dr Arvind Kumar

Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery, Medanta Hospital and Founder and Trustee, Lung Care Foundation