Sitting down to write this December blog was more difficult than anticipated. Even though it is officially the holiday season and tons of topics are relevant to this time of the year, it was overwhelming to pick just one subject for this month. As I explored the past blog topics written around the holidays, I realized that many of my ideas had already been discussed on former blog postings. It never hurts to repeat certain information, especially information that is critical to the health and safety of children, but the more I read the former topics, the more motivated I became to discuss a different subject. After exploring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, a fact floating about their webpage caught my attention. It’s not usually a topic of discussion for the holiday season, but the more I studied the fact, the more I realized this is a subject that needs to be discussed year around. So, what was this fact that caught my eye? According to the CDC (2017), research shows that as of 2015, 1 in 5 adults were still using tobacco products. Of the 49 million tobacco users in the United States, cigarette smoking is the most common way to use tobacco. As someone who grew up in a generation where children were taught the dangers of tobacco usage, this statistic was shocking. Knowing that tobacco usage is still a public health concern for the nation makes this a topic that warrants time for discussion.
We have known for many years that smoking cigarettes poses a serious health concern, yet research is still suggesting that many people smoke. There are many reasons people take part in smoking. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.) shares that individuals begin smoking for stress relief, pleasure, or adhering to social situations. Research suggests that tobacco products can virtually harm every organ in the body, while smoking causes more deaths each year than Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, car accidents, and firearm-related incidents combined (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). A major concern with smoking is that more than just the smoker can be affected by cigarette smoke. As time has progressed, we have learned that individuals who do not smoke, but are exposed to cigarette smoke can also face serious health concerns. This means that the children you serve through home visiting face health concerns when exposed to cigarette smoke.
Secondhand smoke, a term that has become familiar to many individuals, refers to the smoke that a smoker exhales from their cigarette, pipe, or cigar. This smoke is made up of about 4,000 chemicals and 50 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017). When children are exposed to individuals who smoke, they breathe in these dangerous chemicals. Even children who are raised by caregivers who choose to smoke outside still face health concerns caused by thirdhand smoke.
Thirdhand smoke is the smoke that is left behind by smokers (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017). This means if a parent chooses to smoke in a car without their child present, when the child does ride in the car, they are still exposed to the leftover smoke. Smoking impacts both the smoker and those who are exposed to the smoke from the tobacco product. We know that children being exposed to cigarette smoke is not good, but how does this smoke harm children?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2017), secondhand smoke can cause copious health concerns for children. These concerns include:
• Ear infections
• Coughs and colds
• Respiratory problems like bronchitis or pneumonia
• Tooth decay
In addition to these health concerns, secondhand smoke may cause more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children, and children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a more difficult time recovering from colds. Smoking does not wait to affect only the post-natal child. Research has shown that when women who are pregnant smoke, their soon to be born infant may face serious health complications.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (2015) reports that when a fetus is exposed to a mother who smokes they are at risk for:
• Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
• Learning Problems
• Respiratory Disorders
• Adult Heart Disease
When we look at all the health complications that children face because they are exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke, we begin shouting in our heads that caregivers must stop smoking. Organizations like the America Academy of Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society even share that the only way to stop the dangers caused by smoking is to have individuals quit smoking (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017; American Cancer Society, 2017). This task is a lot easier said than done.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.) reminds us that cigarettes contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance. Quitting smoking is no easy task, but as home visitors, you have great resources that you can share with families to support them along their journey to being smoke free. If you work with parents who smoke, remember you can refer them to their local health department or healthcare provider, these places are usually excited to talk with individuals about the benefits of giving up smoking. Do not forget there are various modules that include subsections addressing the dangers of smoking for parents and children. These subsections include:
Growing Great Kids Prenatal Manual
Unit 3 Module 3: Healthy Pregnancy…Healthy Baby-Smoking And Fetal Development
Growing Great Kids Birth to 12 Months
0-3 Months Module 1: Basic Care…Infant Safety/Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
4-6 Months Module 1: Basic Care…Smoking: Facts About Exposing Children
10-12 Months Module 1: Basic Care…Smoking Revisited
In addition to these subsections that directly address smoking, know that you can always use your Body Builders Daily Do to discuss the dangers of smoking as this concern is addressed by this Daily Do. Smoking can be a difficult topic to discuss with families you serve, but know that you have so many resources that are available to help ease these conversations with families. Remember that having these kinds of difficult conversations with families provides them optimum opportunities for growth. Please help America become smoke free!
American Academy of Pediatrics. 2017. The dangers of secondhand smoke. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org
American Academy of Pediatrics. 2017. Where we stand: Smoking during pregnancy. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org
American Cancer Society. 2017. The great American smokeout. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. Smoking & tobacco use health effects of cigarette smoking. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. One in five US adults still using tobacco products in 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. Smoking & tobacco use fast facts. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov
U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Reasons people smoke. Retrieved from: https://smokefree.gov