Parents who believe that opening a window will protect their children from passive smoking were warned yesterday it was useless.
Doctors at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London released research showing that smoke from one cigarette can linger for more than two hours even with ventilation from an open window.
The hospital is launching a campaign to highlight the dangers of passive smoking, including the increased risk of meningitis, asthma, cot death and chest infections. It is advising that the best way to protect children is with a complete smoking ban inside the house.
Dr Liz Edwards, paediatric respiratory fellow at the Royal Brompton, said children were more at risk from passive smoking than adults because their lungs were smaller and not fully developed. "The short and long-term damage to children's health caused by passive smoking should not be underestimated at all. Smoke from one cigarette lingers in the air for more than two hours, even with the window open," she warned.
"This smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and poisons, including arsenic, ammonia, the insecticide DDT and formaldehyde. Children of parents who smoke inhale about 60 to 150 cigarettes' worth of nicotine a year, or about 1.5 cigarettes' worth of nicotine each week."
Judith Watt, head of SmokeFree London, an alliance of NHS trusts and other agencies, said that in London alone, up to 650 new cases of childhood asthma were caused every year by passive smoking.