Research released in a campaign to make parents aware of tobacco smoke damage to infant health showed only 7 per cent of parents knew of a link between cot death and passive smoking.
"Cot death still remains the main cause of death for babies over one month old," said Joyce Epstein, secretary-general of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. "It takes nine lives a week. We are shockedhardly anybody is aware we cut cot death by cutting smoking."
The latest figures show a baby is eight times more likely to succumb to cot death if both parents smoke.
The Gallup survey of 2,000 people commissioned by the Doctor Patient Partnership, which is leading the campaign, showed the majority of parents were also unaware their smoking increased their child's likelihood of having chest infections, asthma - and becoming a smoker. Only 41 per cent thought passive smoking affected childhood asthma, only 22 per cent believed it increased risk of chest infection. Just 13 per cent thought it encouraged children to become smokers.
The research findings are very different: 74 per cent of children say smoky places make their asthma worse, passive smoking doubles the risk of acute respiratory illness in children, and children who live with two parents who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers.
"These results are frightening," said Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of the partnership. "Many people who smoke around their children are genuinely unaware of the extent of the problems they can cause to their children's health."