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Children's health up in smoke

Over eight hundred children visit their doctor every day due to the serious effects of secondhand smoke exposure, according to research published by the Royal College of Physicians . In the North East, a regional breakdown reveals 13,000 youngsters need hospital or GP treatment every year from breathing in smoke.


The figures have been highlighted today as the government launches a campaign to increase awareness of the hidden dangers of smoking in homes and cars.


More than 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless, and contains harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons. TV adverts will show that smoking out of a car window or the backdoor is not enough to protect children from secondhand smoke.


Every day millions of children in the UK are exposed to secondhand smoke, which puts them at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death. Treatment, hospital and GP visits for secondhand smoke related illnesses cost the NHS more than £23.6 million each year.


The only way to completely protect people from secondhand smoke is to make homes and cars entirely smokefree. As the campaign launches, a new survey2 highlights that despite the risks, many children are still exposed to secondhand smoke:
- 68% of parents who smoke admit to doing so in the car with their children present
- 75% of smoking parents were shocked to hear that secondhand smoke affects the health of so many children
The regional breakdown for the North East from the Royal College of Physicians Passive Smoking and Children report by Fresh shows around 84,000 North East children are estimated to be exposed to second hand smoke in the home, leading to:


- 800 chest infections for under twos
- 4,900 middle ear infections for 0-16yr-olds
- 900 new cases of wheeze & asthma for 0-16 year olds
- 24 cases of bacterial meningitis
- 12,600 children needing to visit the GP
- 400 children needing to go to hospital


Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:


“It’s well known that smoking kills, but many smokers still don’t realise the damage their smoke causes to those around them.

“Secondhand smoke can be an invisible killer and with more than 300,000 people seeing their GP each year because of it, we need to make sure people know how dangerous it can be.

“Our message is clear: giving up smoking is by far the best way to protect your family and we can help you quit to give you and your loved ones a healthier future.”


Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:


“We hope these figures showing the number of children who need hospital treatment for the effects of second hand smoke and the information contained in the campaign will provide a wake-up call to many smokers out there. We must do more to protect the health of our children and making your home and car smokefree will reduce this unnecessary harm to children’s health.”


Dr Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK said:


“The evidence is clear. Smoking around children is harmful, especially in homes and cars, so it’s vital they are protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke.


Raising awareness of the dangers, providing information and supporting parents to make healthy choices are the first steps towards this. We hope this campaign helps bring attention to this and encourages parents and all adults to protect their families and make their homes and cars smokefree.”


The campaign will launch today and will include TV and online advertising. It follows the success of other recent campaigns including Stoptober and a campaign showing the deadly mutations that smoking can cause.


Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh Smoke Free North East, said: “Many take steps such as opening a window, or smoking in another room, but this doesn’t stop the toxic poisons contained in smoke filling a room or a car and children breathing it in. These fumes can hang around for hours.”


Smokers can visit to order a free Smokefree Kit. Facts, tips and tools are also available on the site to help them on the way to a smokefree future.


Dr Stephen Cronin, Consultant Paediatrician with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, who backed the new campaign, added: “We see too many cases where children have to be admitted to hospital suffering from wheezy bronchitis and exposure to cigarette smoke either causes it or makes the condition worse.

“Smoke is full of poisons and is harmful to all, but children are especially vulnerable as their lungs and bodies are still developing. It is particularly distressing to see a young child suffering from wheezy bronchitis where they are struggling for breath.

“Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to suffer asthma attacks and chest infections, get more coughs and colds and need more hospital care or doctors’ appointments. Research also suggests that being exposed also increases the risk of that child getting serious diseases like lung cancer and heart disease when they are older.

“I would urge anyone who smokes around children to quit. Even smoking in another room or with the car window down means your children are exposed to poisons