Smoking around toddlers has serious, long-term impacts on their weight

If there was ever a case to stamp out secondhand smoke around children, it’s these disturbing research results: the impact of smoking around toddlers can be just as bad as smoking while pregnant. These children generally weigh more than those who haven’t been exposed to cigarette smoke, and the impacts may last well beyond childhood.

The research reveals that children whose parents smoke when they are toddlers are likely to have wider waists and a higher Body Mass Index, by the time they are 10 years old. But researchers involved in the University of Montreal study think the impact could actually be worse.

“We suspect the statistics we’ve established linking childhood obesity to exposure to parents’ smoking may underestimate the effect, due to parents under-reporting the amount they smoked out of shame,” says Professor Linda Pagani, who led the study. “By the age of 10, the children who had been intermittently or continuously exposed to smoke were likely to have waists that were up to three-fifths of an inch wider than their peers. And their BMI scores were likely to be between .48 and .81 points higher. This prospective association is almost as large as the influence of smoking while pregnant.”

The crux of the issue is that the weight gain is occurring at a critical developmental period in a child’s life, known as the adiposity rebound period. It means the weight gain can have serious and long-term effects.

“Early childhood exposure to second hand smoke could be influencing endocrine imbalances and altering neurodevelopmental functioning at this critical period in hypothalamic development, thus damaging vital systems which undergo important postnatal growth and development until middle childhood, i.e. the period that we’ve looked at in this study,” says Professor Pagani.

“Young children have ventilation needs per kilogram of body weight that are approximately two to three times higher than adults due to their immature vital systems, resulting in more noxious effects given equal levels of household smoke exposure compared to adults. In any event, our findings emphasize the importance public health initiatives and parental sensitization aimed at domestic exposure reductions during the critical early childhood years.”

The frightening reality is that 40 per cent of children worldwide are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes.

We’ve previously reported on ultrasounds that show how unborn babies react to smoking and how smoking in pregnancy changes a baby’s DNA.

(via Science Daily)

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