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July 13, 2015

Study: Smoking near toddlers likely as bad as smoking while pregnant

New research shows secondhand smoke could cause endocrine imbalances and alter neurodevelopmental functioning in young children

Health News Smoking
Second Hand Smoke GREG BAKER/AP

A man smoking a cigarette while reading to his daughter under an overpass in Beijing.

It’s widely known that secondhand smoke can pose serious harm to others, but new research shows the effects on young children may be even worse than one would assume.

According to researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte Justine Research Centre, smoking around a toddler can have the same effects on the child’s future health as smoking while pregnant, particularly when it comes to weight gain. 

The researchers found that by the age of 10, children who were exposed to secondhand smoke had waists up to three-fifths of an inch wider than their peers, and their body mass index scores were .48 to .81 points higher.

Linda Pagani, the lead author of the study, said the reason likely stems from secondhand smoke’s influence on a child’s endocrine system, which releases specific hormones into the bloodstream and then to other cells, and his or her neurodevelopmental functioning.

Being around smoke, she noted, can cause endocrine imbalances and alter neurodevelopmental functioning at this critical period in development.

Young children’s ventilation needs are also two to three times that of adults.

Forty percent of children worldwide are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes.

Read the full study here.