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Medical Moment: Kids & thirdhand smoke

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 8:23 PM EST
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According to the CDC, cigarette smoking among American adults has hit an all-time low.

Experts say that’s good news. But still, about 14 percent of all adults light up. That’s an estimated 34 million people over the age 18.

A new study is showing how exposure to adults’ tobacco smoke is taking a toll on kids’ health and the healthcare system.

Experts say about four in ten children are exposed to secondhand and even thirdhand smoke.

“So, secondhand smoke is when you’re inhaling cigarette smoke from a lit tobacco product,” says Ashley Merianos, health services researcher at the University of Cincinnati. “And thirdhand smoke is the residue that remains in the environment well after the cigarette smoking has ceased.”

Merianos says when kids inhale, swallow or touch objects that contain thirdhand smoke, they are at higher risk of asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. Merianos and her colleagues found that smoke exposed children had nearly twice the risk of being admitted to the hospital over a one-year period. And higher rates of ER visits all coming at a cost.

“So, we found that children exposed to tobacco smoke had an average of almost $120 more per each pediatric emergency department visit compared to unexposed children who do not live with a smoker,” Merianos says.

The research also suggests the need for additional smoke exposure intervention programs ensuring that adults who want to quit smoking are supported.

Merianos says for every 100 adults who try to quit, only seven are successful. She says it’s also important they have the resources to rid their homes of thirdhand smoke residue.

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