Tobacco smoke exposes children to chronic respiratory diseases- Study

2012-06-12
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Maureen Azuh

On Thursday, May 31, the World Health Organisation celebrated the World No Tobacco Day with the theme ‘Tobacco Industry Interference’. The campaign focused on the need to expose and counter the perceived tobacco industry’s attempt to undermine WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — WHO FCTC — because of the danger they pose to public health.

According to reports by WHO, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people yearly, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. The reports indicate that unless a drastic action is taken, it will kill up to eight million people by 2030 and 40 million people — who also suffer from tuberculosis — by 2020 of which more than 80 per cent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

But beyond WHO’s report and campaign, researchers in their bid to find a lasting solution to tobacco-related diseases say children exposed to tobacco smoke may face long-term respiratory problems. In a report by the American Thoracic Society, published online on May 20, 2012, it was found that there are potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke – ETS – especially among children whose parents smoke.

The study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona, US indicates that the health risks persist beyond childhood, and are independent of whether or not the individuals involved end up becoming smokers in life. The researchers posit that exposure to parental smoking increases the risk of the persistence of respiratory symptoms from childhood into adulthood independent of personal smoking.

Research specialist at the university, Juliana Pugmire, says “persistent respiratory illness in childhood and young adulthood could indicate an increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and lung function deficits in later life.”

Pugmire notes that earlier studies established a link between parental smoking and childhood respiratory illness, but the current one seeks to demonstrate whether these effects persist into adulthood.

“A handful of studies examined whether children exposed to parental smoking had asthma that developed or persisted in adulthood but most did not find an association. We examined asthma as well as other respiratory symptoms and found that exposure to parental smoking had the strongest association with cough and chronic cough that persisted into adult life. Exposure to parental smoking also had effects, although weaker, on persistent wheezing and asthma in adulthood,” she says.

The researchers drew data from the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease, a large, population-based, prospective study initiated in 1972 that enrolled 3,805 individuals from 1,655 households in the Tucson area, in an effort to assess prevalence rates and risk factors of respiratory and other chronic diseases.

Participants were asked to complete questionnaires that were issued every two years until 1996. But for the present study, the researchers used data from 371 individuals who were enrolled in the TESAOD as children.

Pugmire and her colleagues looked at the reported prevalence of active asthma, wheeze, cough and chronic cough, which was defined as a persistent cough that had occurred for three consecutive months. They divided the data into four categories: never, which included individuals who had not reported that symptom during childhood or adulthood; incident, which included individuals who had never reported the symptom in childhood, but had reported at least one incident in adulthood; remittent, including participants who reported at least one incident in childhood and none in adulthood; and persistent, which included individuals who had at least one report of a symptom during both childhood and adulthood.

With the data, the researchers determined that 52.3 per cent of children included in the current study were exposed to ETS between birth and 15 years. After adjustments for sex, age, years of follow-up and personal smoking status, the researchers found that ETS exposure in childhood was significantly associated with several persistent respiratory symptoms, including persistent wheeze, cough and chronic cough.

Pugmire states that persistent wheezing from childhood into adult life has been shown to be associated with lung function deficits. Chronic bronchitis – defined as chronic cough and phlegm – is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease development later in life.

“The persistence of symptoms like chronic cough and wheeze into young adulthood may indicate a susceptibility to lung function deficits and chronic respiratory illness with age,” she adds.

Perhaps in a likely search for a lasting solution to the menace of tobacco smoking, yet another study says anti-Tobacco television adverts may help adults to stop smoking. The study published in the online journal, American Journal of Public Health, in April, finds that though some adverts may be more effective than others, all anti-tobacco television advertising help reduce adult smoking.

The study looked at the relationship between adults’ smoking behaviours and their exposure to adverts sponsored by states; private foundations; tobacco companies themselves or by pharmaceutical companies marketing smoking-cessation products. The researchers analysed variables such as smoking status, intentions to quit smoking, attempts to quit in the past year, and average daily cigarette consumption. The report says they found that in markets with higher exposure to state-sponsored media campaigns, “smoking is less, and intentions to quit are higher.”

The researchers, however, say an unexpected finding of the study was that adults who were in areas with more adverts for pharmaceutical cessation products were less likely to make an attempt to quit.

Meanwhile, as WHO and other countries move to fully meet their obligations and counter tobacco industry’s efforts to undermine the treaty, the World No Tobacco Day 2012 – according to WHO – educated policy-makers and the general public about the tobacco industry’s nefarious and harmful tactics, as well as reinforce health warnings of tobacco.



 

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