Childhood Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Predict Future Smoking Status

This study investigated the effect of sensitivity to secondhand smoke exposure in preteens. Individual reaction to secondhand smoke exposure acts as an important indicator for vulnerability toward smoking. After conducting repeated observations for 12 months, the authors found that subjects who reported secondhand smoke as unpleasant were less susceptible to smoking in future. The results of this study showed that “assessment of secondhand smoke exposure sensitivity is a novel approach to the study of cigarette initiation etiology and informs prevention interventions.”

Passive smokers are at risk of several illnesses and diseases because of exposure to toxins from secondhand smoke exposure. Children are more vulnerable and can turn into smokers, if exposed to secondhand smoke. It is very important to understand the science related to this vulnerability for any child’s health and the well-being of an individual who is exposed to cigarette smoke. There are many reasons that can correlate childhood secondhand smoke and smoking addiction in adults. Apart from genetically inheriting the smoking habit, one of the mechanisms that contribute to a person becoming a smoker may be individual sensitivity to secondhand smoke exposure. In this study, the authors investigated this mechanism to solve the mystery associated with smoking susceptibility in children exposed to passive smoking. The results of this study can help prevent smoking initiation in youth and hence, contribute to their overall health. “Identifying mechanisms that contribute to smoking susceptibility provide information about early targets for smoking prevention.”

* In this study, 201 children aged 8 to 13 years, one from each family that has never smoked before were studied initially and then were followed up after five, nine and 12 months.
* Reaction to secondhand smoke exposure and smoking susceptibility was assessed by a series of questionnaires designed as an interview.
* Analysis of the secondhand smoke exposure reaction and its relation with demographic characteristics was done by using tested statistical methods.

* Children who reported secondhand smoke exposure as a displeasing effect have low probability of becoming smokers as adults.
* Results showed that 8- and 9-year-old children exhibited extreme reactions by feeling unpleasant or relaxed when compared to the older kids.
* African-American children had more pleasant experiences when exposed to secondhand smoke exposure.
* It was also observed that gender or family smoking history caused no difference.

Shortcomings/Next steps
This study was targeted at kids in the age group 8 to 13. To make it more generalized, other ages should also be considered. Firsthand smoke experiences are the focus of this study. Some items specific to secondhand smoke should also be included. More follow-up studies should be performed after 12 months to obtain a clear picture of the relationship of secondhand smoke exposure sensitivity with smoking initiation.

Passive smoking or secondhand smoking is a cause of many diseases in children. There is also a possibility of getting addicted to smoking after growing up. This study predicted that an unpleasant feeling or experience acts as a protective measure against smoking susceptibility. Most of the children participating in this study fall under “low susceptibility” criteria, indicating overall low smoking tendency in this age group. Hence, this age group (8 to 13 years) can be intervened and controlled before they can make advances toward smoking. This study can be extended to other age groups, where the kids are more at risk of smoking initiation to draw more conclusive preventive measures.

For More Information:
Sensitivity to Secondhand Smoke Exposure Predicts Future Smoking Suscepti bility
Publication Journal: Pediatrics, July 2011
By Christina N. Lessov-Schlaggar, PhD; Dennis R. Wahlgren; Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; San Diego State University, San Diego, California

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