A longitudinal study that spanned 26 years found that kids exposed to their Finish parents cigarette smoke are at risk of developing plaque in their carotid arteries as they grow into young adults. Previously, second-hand smoke exposure at a young age was linked to later breast cancer and a predisposition to nicotine addiction. Psychologically, having parent smokers may influence children to become smokers themselves when they grow up, triggering a cascade of other health risks.
Researchers measured the amount of cotinine in frozen blood samples collected in 1980 from more than 1,000 kids ages three to 18. Cotinine, the proximate metabolite of nicotine, has been identified as an indicator of smoke constituent exposure. These were correlated with parental reports of smoking status in 1980 and 1983 from a larger group of kids, as well as later ultrasounds of the adult children in 2001 and 2007 to check for buildup of plaque in the carotid arteries.
About two percent of the grown-up kids had a carotid plaque uncovered by ultrasound at an average age of 36. More than 84 percent of kids of nonsmokers had no cotinine in their blood, compared to 62 percent of those with one smoking parent and 43 percent when both parents smoked. So, those participants who had one or more smoking parents were almost two times likely (1.7) to develop carotid plaque in adulthood, regardless of age, gender etc. Findings were reported in the journal Circulation.
The authors of the study urge smoking parents to revise their smoking habits and reduce children’s smoke exposure to a minimum.
“What we were able to do that others have not, is show that parents who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking can still limit the impact of their smoking on their child’s future cardiovascular health by changing their smoking behavior to limit the amount of smoke their child is exposed to,” said senior author Costan G. Magnussen of Menzies Research Institute Tasmania in Hobart, Australia.
Those parents that didn’t smoke in the house or car had children with little to none passive smoke exposure in their child’s blood, Magnussen said. Tricks don’t work either. If you don’t smoke when your child is near, but do so in your home or car while he is away you might expose him to third-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke infiltrates the walls and ceiling where it interacts with other chemicals to create toxic substances over time.
“The other message for the lay public is to not allow any smoking in your home or car,” as it will contaminate the environment indefinitely, said Melbourne Hovell of San Diego State University. “Parents with young children probably should avoid buying a used car that has been smoked in.”