London Borough of Enfield

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Stop Smoking now to protect your children

Published Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A publication last year by the Royal College of Physicians has set out clearly the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke to children. Many people are aware of the risks of smoking – cancer, respiratory disease and the risk of premature death. But few know that smoking around babies and young children can also cause them harm.

The report found that each year in the UK the inhalation of second hand smoke by children causes:

- Over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection - passive smoking doubles the risk of asthma, chest infection, coughs, colds and wheezes;
- 120,000 cases of middle ear disease;
-200 cases of bacterial meningitis;
- 40 sudden infant deaths - one in five of all sudden infant deaths (cot death)

It is estimated that 20.5% of Enfield residents aged 18 or over smoke regularly.

Breathing tobacco smoke may also affect children's mental development and cause learning and behavioural difficulties. The risks from passive smoking is three times higher if the father smokes, six times higher if the mother smokes and nine times higher if both parents smoke. Children growing up with parents or siblings who are smokers are 90% more likely to smoke themselves.

In addition to this Enfield has a high infant mortality rate in comparison with the rest of London. In 2007-9 the rate was 5.3 per 1,000 live births; whist this may seem like a small number, even if one death can be prevented it should be done so.

Smoking increases the risk of a baby being born prematurely, which is a key risk for infant mortality. Smoking around young infants also significantly increases the risk of sudden infant death.

Dr Shahed Ahmad, Joint Director of Public Heath said "This report makes it clear the dangers of not only second hand smoke to infants and young children, but also the importance of giving up smoking in pregnancy.

"There is a lot of help available for families wanting to give up smoking. Midwives at our local hospitals provide information and help to pregnant women who smoke, and after birth health visitors can provide support.

"Last year the NHS and Local Safeguarding Children's Board ran a very successful Safer Sleeping Campaign stressing the danger of second hand smoke for infants.

"Giving up smoking is the one most important thing that expectant mothers and parents can do for their children to help improve health."

Cllr Christine Hamilton, Cabinet Member for Public Health said "Enfield Council is doing all it can to stamp out the problems associated not only with the selling of tobacco to children but also the spread of counterfeit tobacco, which can contain very harmful levels of chemicals. This was shown by Enfield Council's trading standards who recently undertook a joint operation with customs seizing over 1000 counterfeit cigarettes.

"Health workers are also working tirelessly to support people who want to stop smoking, during 2010 to 2011 NHS Enfield helped 1,528 quit.

"We have been working hard to bring down our infant mortality rates, and this report has made us more determined than ever to bring home the message to parents that if you don't want to stop smoking for yourself then stop for your children."

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