Teens exposed to secondhand smoke for just one hour suffer from breathing problems

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Researchers say that teens who were around secondhand smoke for just an hour a day were more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough and having trouble performing exercises (file image)


Secondhand smoke is to blame for teenagers missing school days because it is giving them severe breathing problems, a study has found. 

Researchers say that teens who were around secondhand smoke for just an hour a day were more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough and having trouble performing physical activities.

Additionally, adolescents that live at home with a smoker were likely to often miss classes due to illness or make visits to urgent care facilities and emergency rooms.

The team, from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, is calling on lawmakers to implement policy changes that prohibit smoking in public places in all 50 states to prevent teens from developing a number of health problems including asthma and lung cancer.

Researchers say that teens who were around secondhand smoke for just an hour a day were more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough and having trouble performing exercises (file image)

Researchers say that teens who were around secondhand smoke for just an hour a day were more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough and having trouble performing exercises (file image)

Secondhand smoke is a combination between the smoke coming from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke breathed out by smokers, according to the CDC.

Around 7,000 chemicals are found in secondhand smoke and about 70 of them are carcinogens, according to several studies conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

Nonsmokers often breathe in many of the same chemicals that smokers do, which can damage cells and the lining of their blood vessels.

The CDC says this increases the risk of nonsmokers developing lung cancer or having a heart attack or stroke by 20 to 30 percent.

Currently, just 26 states and Washington, DC have laws that ban smoking in public places, such as restaurants and bars, as well as workplaces. 

Lead author Dr Ashley Merianos, an assistant professor of health promotion and education at the University of Cincinnati, told ABC News that several studies have been conducted on teenagers who have asthma but not in otherwise healthy teens. 

‘There was a [lack] of information about how [secondhand smoke] affects adolescents [without asthma], so we decided to look into this specific group of people,’ she told the station.  

For the study, the team looked at more than 7,300 nonsmoking teenagers between ages 12 and 17 without asthma.

The teens were part of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, a government study that looks at tobacco use and health among adolescents and adults. 

Participants self-reported if they lived at home with a smoker, if tobacco products were burned inside their home, and how many hours they’d been around someone who smoked in the last seven days. 

Researchers found that more than one-third of teens were around someone who smoked for at least one hour per day whether it was at home, at school or outside.

Teens exposed to secondhand smoke for more than an hour per day were more likely to report symptoms including having difficulty exercising, shortness of breath, or wheezing.

The team says these problems could be because secondhand smoke exposure reduces how much oxygen is delivered to the myocardium, the heart’s central layer made of muscular tissue.

Any oxygen that is delivered may not be able to be used effectively, which causes several breathing problems.

The researchers also found that those exposed to more than one hour of secondhand smoke had a 1.5 times increased risk of frequently missing school due to being sick.

These teens were also more 3.5 times likely to visit an urgent care facility or an emergency department over the past 12 months.

Researchers also saw some discrepancies when it came to demographics. More than 30 percent of African American adolescents lived with a smoker compared to 24.5 percent of white teens and 20 percent of other races.

Additionally, participants with parents who had completed no degree higher than a high school diploma or equivalent had the highest rate of living with a smoker at around 36 percent.

They were also had higher rates of being exposed to secondhand smoke for more than an hour at 44 percent. 

Researchers say that in addition to laws that ban smoking in public places, emergency departments and urgent care facilities should be focusing on intervention. 

‘They should be educated on the importance of [secondhand smoke] elimination to increase [teens’] overall health and wellness, especially because they may not be receiving preventive care elsewhere,’ the authors wrote.

 

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