Researchers from the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte Justine Research Centre discovered that children whose parents would smoke in their presence when they were toddlers faced the risk of having a wider waist and greater BMI till when they reach 10 years of age. The paper entiled “Prospective associations between early long-term household tobacco smoke exposure and subsequent indicators of metabolic risk at age 10” was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
40 % of children all across the world bear second-hand smoking in their own homes. While smoking during pregnancy is known to generate negative effects on babies, this study is the first to hint at second-hand smoking affects toddlers in this way.
“We suspect the statistics we’ve established linking childhood obesity to exposure to parents’ smoking may underestimate the effect due to parents under reporting the amount they smoked out of shame,” explained the lead author of the study, Professor Linda Pagani.
“By the age of ten, the children who had been intermittently or continuously exposed to smoke were likely to have waists that were up to three-fifths of an inch wider than their peers. And their BMI scores were likely to be between .48 and .81 points higher. This prospective association is almost as large as the influence of smoking while pregnant.”
Pagani and her team analysed data gleaned through the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development survey about children’s wellbeing, lifestyle, behaviour and social environment. Comparing the behaviour of 2055 families and the effects on their children led to the findings.
“Early childhood exposure to second-hand smoke could be influencing endocrine imbalances and altering neurodevelopmental functioning at this critical period in hypothalamic development, thus damaging vital systems which undergo important postnatal growth and development until middle childhood, i.e. the period that we’ve looked at in this study,” she said.
“The mechanisms by which household smoke negatively influences immune, neurodevelopmental, and cardiovascular processes are multiple and transactional. For example, young children have ventilation needs per kilogram of body weight that are approximately 2 to 3 times higher than adults due to their immature vital systems, resulting in more noxious effects given equal levels of household smoke exposure compared to adults. In any event, our findings emphasize the importance public health initiatives and parental sensitisation aimed at domestic exposure reductions during the critical early childhood years.”