Exposing kids to passive smoking may put them at risk of lifelong cardiovascular, respiratory and other health issues, according to scientists including one of Indian origin.
As per a study conducted by researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in the US , high level of toxicity in the smoke that comes from the end of a burning cigarette -- side stream smoke -- is a major component in passive smoking that can damage children's blood vessels.
"Cigarette smoke exposure is harmful to children's long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy," said Geetha Raghuveer, Professor at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in the US, adding that parents should consider making their children's environment smoke free.
The study found that the children exposed to cigarette smoke could develop early heart disease as adults due to poorly functioning, stiffer blood vessels.
"Some babies who were exposed to cigarette smoke while still in the womb may be at risk for sudden death during infancy," she said.
Besides impacting heart function by causing damage to arteries, exposure to second hand smoke has also been associated with other cardiovascular risk factors like obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Children are more likely to become smokers themselves if their parents smoke.
Second hand smoke contains a host of chemicals that can impact health by causing changes to blood flow, blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rhythm.
Compared with adults, children are especially vulnerable to second hand smoke exposure in part because they cannot control tobacco use in their surroundings, and they appear to be particularly susceptible physically to the smoke's effects.
Overall, an estimated 24 million non-smoking children and youths are exposed to secondhand smoke in the US, largely because of parents who smoke, researchers said.
"Encouraging adults to quit smoking is a cost-effective and health-enhancing strategy that could benefit both adults and children," said Raghuveer.
"Raising cigarette taxes to discourage smoking could also decrease childhood exposure," she added.
The study appears in the journal Circulation.
(With agency inputs)