I grew up in a household with two smoking parents. I was the one hanging my head out the car window with the dog.
I can’t go back and change the fact that my parents smoked. Luckily, their smoking did not influence me to begin my own life-draining habit. So I escaped the damage.
Or so I thought.
I’m pretty sure the days of parents blowing smoke directly into their children’s faces for laughs are pretty much over. These days, this same act would almost certainly be accompanied by a visit from child protective services. But even the most conscientious of smokers can’t protect their children from damage. This is because few smokers seem to be aware of the concept of third-hand smoke. Sure, we all know about secondary smoke and passive smoking. And if you do your best to not smoke around your kids and not smoke in the car you’re going to fully insulate your kids from your bad habits.
Cotinine is a compound that shows up in the blood of those who have been exposed to cigarette smoke. This includes both smokers and the children of smokers. The higher to cotinine levels, the higher the exposure. With that in mind, if you are a smoker and you care about your child or children’s health (which I’m sure you do), then you need to pay attention to this particular study.
In it, researchers looked at the carotid arteries of adults who had been exposed to cigarette smoke TWENTY-SIX YEARS earlier. Here’s what they found:
- The percentage of children without any cotinine in their blood levels was highest in non-smoking households (84%), followed by one smoking parent (62%) and households where both parents smoked (43%).
- Two and a half decades later, the adults who were raised in a smoking household were 70% more likely to have hardening of their carotid arteries.
This is not good news. This means that the damage to the blood vessels begin as a child as a result of this early exposure to indirect smoke. And, in all likelihood, it is an ongoing process. The hardening of the arteries does not happen as a child, but rather is the end result of a decades-long progression of the damage that started way back when.
But it gets worse:
- Even in those households were parents were conscientious about not exposing their children (referred to as good “smoking hygiene”) and whose children had no detectable blood levels of cotinine there was still a 60% higher risk of hardening of the arteries.
- For those children who parents really didn’t focus on protecting their children (poor smoking hygiene–the children had detectable blood cotinine levels) there was a whopping 400% increased risk of hardening of the arteries in the carotid arteries of the neck.
If you are a parent who smokes, you need to take a hard look at just how much of an effect this is going to have on your kids. And it’s not an IF, it’s a HOW MUCH. And we can see that, even it you do not directly expose your kids to cigarette smoke, they are suffering the damage of your lifestyle choices.