This month we celebrate World No Tobacco Day, which provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about the harmful effects tobacco exposure has on our children. Tobacco exposure comes in many forms-the most direct and most harmful of which, is smoking in teenagers and young adults. In addition to the well-documented risks of smoking including heart disease, cancer and lung disease, tobacco exposure is especially harmful for the developing adolescent brain. With their increasing popularity, vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes now pose one of the greatest risks to the health of adolescents. Electronic cigarettes have been increasingly targeted towards adolescents and marketed as a “safe” alternative to traditional cigarettes. As a result, teen tobacco use has been rapidly increasing. As of 2018, 1 in 5 adolescents reported using e-cigarettes in the last thirty days. The most important thing we can do to protect our children is to talk to our teenagers early and often about the risks of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Though often overlooked, secondhand smoke exposure also poses a significant risk to the health of our children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have higher risks of not only common infections like ear infections and colds, but also potentially life-threatening conditions like asthma attacks or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Maternal smoking during pregnancy can also cause a variety of health problems for the unborn infant including premature birth, low birth weight and certain birth defects. You can help protect your children by not allowing anyone to smoke in your home or car. If someone in the home smokes, you can minimize your child’s exposure to harmful chemicals by ensuring they change their clothes and wash their hands after smoking. For more information about World No Tobacco Day, how to talk to your children about tobacco or for help quitting, visit the links below.