Children 'victims of passive smoking'

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The Independent Online
HALF OF all children are subjected to the effects of passive smoking, which puts 17,000 under-fives in hospital each year, health campaigners revealed yesterday.

They said that the 'disastrous' effects of parents' smoking on children's health were only now emerging. They called on the Government to ban tobacco advertising and to publish urgently a report on the effects of advertising on smoking habits.

Six months ago, the Independent disclosed that a report by Dr Clive Smee, chief economic adviser to the Department of Health, had found that an advertising ban could reduce smoking by up to 5 per cent.

Yesterday, a series of books was launched by the Health Education Authority giving smoking statistics from every parliamentary constituency.

Knowsley North on Merseyside produced the highest percentage of deaths due to smoking, 23.8 per cent of all deaths. The lowest was Maidstone in Kent - 13.1 per cent.

In 49 per cent of English and Welsh households, at least one parent smokes. During pregnancy, 14 per cent of women smoke; 15 per cent smoke and live with a partner who smokes, and 19 per cent are non-smokers but live with smokers.

Dr Warren Lenney, paediatrician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, Brighton, said at the launch of the books: 'It is only in the last few years that research has come out about the impact of smoking on the health of young babies and children.'

He said it was estimated that about 4,000 spontaneous abortions a year were a result of smoking among pregnant women, and that the baby of a woman smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes a day risked being 300 to 400 grams (9 to 12oz) lighter. Other research has shown that up to a quarter of sudden infant deaths could be directly or indirectly attributed to mothers smoking in pregnancy or mothers or fathers smoking after the birth of their child.

'The risk of asthma doubles in children because of passive smoking; some 30 per cent of glue ear cases, the commonest cause of deafness in children, have their origins in smoking; and eczema, hay fever and other common allergies increase fivefold in children whose parents smoke, compared to the general population,' Dr Lenney said.

Donald Reid, director of programmes at the Health Education Authority, said that the Government's target to reduce smoking from 30 per cent to 20 per cent of the population by 2000 could only be reached if a range of measures was taken.

'Probably it will not be achieved without an advertising ban, although simply to have an advertising ban would not be the only answer,' Mr Reid said.