Lockdown leads to increases in second-hand smoke exposure for children

Shropshire What’s On, May 14, 2020

New evidence suggests lockdown has left more children exposed to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

The warning comes from three charities – Action On Smoking & Health (ASH), British Lung Foundation and Fresh – and Yorkshire & Humber’s public health campaign, Breath 2025.

The four bodies have come together to speak out after evidence from the YouGov Covid-tracker showed that, since lockdown, people who live in households which include children are 50% more likely to report being exposed to second-hand smoke than those living in households without children (10% compared with six percent).

A further 12% of smokers who live with children report they are smoking indoors more than they did before lockdown.

A separate survey in February & March found that in the West Midlands, 20% of people with children in the household reported that someone smokes in their home on most days. There are fears that this proportion could have increased as a result of lockdown.

Second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, raising the risk of more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections, and even meningitis and sudden infant death.

Among adults, exposure significantly increases the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and lung cancer in non-smokers.

Eighty-five percent of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless, but many people are not aware that steps like opening a window, smoking by the back door or smoking in another room do little to protect children and other non-smoking adults.

Respiratory consultant Dr Nick Hopkinson, medical director at British Lung Foundation and Chair of ASH, which is leading a campaign to encourage smokers to QuitForCovid, said: “Exposure to second-hand smoke is one of the leading causes of poor respiratory health in children. Smokers need to take their smoke outside but should try to quit if they can. Using alternative sources of nicotine – like patches, gum or e-cigarettes – can help reduce craving and protect them and their loved ones, especially children, from harm.”

The chief executive of ASH, Deborah Arnott, said: “This is an issue of equity. If you live in a high-rise block, taking your smoke outside is much harder than in a semi-detached with a garden.

“We know parents who smoke are trying to quit and reduce the amount they smoke, and we need to make sure they have the support they need to do this.”

Smokers can find out how to get help with their attempt to quit by visiting todayistheday.co.uk. They can ask questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID.


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