Scottish campaign urges smokers to protect children

Published on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 12:06
Written by Govtoday staff

Scots who think they are doing enough to protect their children from their second-hand smoke are being targeted as part of a new campaign.

With new research showing the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke linger and travel for up to five hours after the visible smoke has disappeared, the campaign is urging people to take smoking right outside of the home or car for the sake of their children.

Unveiling the campaign, public health minister Michael Matheson announced a new target to reduce the proportion of children in Scotland exposed to second-hand smoke in the home from 12% to 6% by 2020.

Scotland is the first country in the UK to set such a target and achieving this has the potential to save approximately 50,000 Scottish children from exposure to second-hand smoke.

The target is part of the government's comprehensive Tobacco Control Strategy for Scotland which sets out a five-year plan to put Scotland on the path to becoming a tobacco-free generation.

The campaign gives people who smoke the facts, helping them understand how smoking indoors pollutes the air their family breathes and how they can take simple steps to make their home and car smoke-free.

With 85% of second-hand smoke being invisible and odourless, many are unaware that smoking indoors, even at an open window or standing at the back door, isn't enough to protect children, as the harmful chemicals linger and easily drift around the home.

Effects of second-hand smoke can have serious consequences for a child's health and it is estimated that second-hand smoke exposure in UK children each year causes over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease, at least 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma, 200 cases of bacterial meningitis, and 40 sudden infant deaths - one in five of all cot deaths.

Michael Matheson said: "As we move towards creating a tobacco-free generation, we want to give every child in Scotland the chance to grow-up in a smoke-free environment.

"This campaign isn't about a person's choice to smoke, it's about people who smoke having the facts so they can smoke in a way that doesn't harm their children.

"The reality is that many think they're already doing enough, without realising that the harmful chemicals from second-hand smoke linger, even when there is no smell and it can't be seen. Because children's immune systems aren't fully developed and they breathe quicker than adults, the simple fact is that smoking in the home or car puts children of all ages at risk.

"We are absolutely clear on our commitment to prevent people taking up smoking and helping those who do smoke to quit. We have led the way with the ban on smoking in public places, the display ban and our commitment to a tobacco free generation. But where people do smoke, it is crucial they know the full facts about the harmful impact it has not just on them, but those around them such as their children."

Dr Sean Semple, University of Aberdeen, the leading academic on second-hand smoke whose research has informed the campaign said: "Eight years ago, Scotland led the way on measures to protect people from second-hand smoke with legislation banning smoking in many public spaces. The benefits of this to health have been substantial and sustained, but we know that second-hand smoke still causes considerable ill-health and that this is mainly from smoking within the home.

"In the past five years our research group has measured pollution levels in over 100 homes across Scotland. Smoking homes have very high concentrations of fine particles that tend to be much higher than the worst pollution on even the busiest roads in Scotland.

"Second-hand smoke also lingers for a long time. In more than a fifth of cases it took over five hours for the second-hand smoke to clear and during this time the harmful chemicals will move around the house.

"Despite the high second-hand smoke levels measured the outlook is good; many of the smokers we worked with were already starting to make their home smoke-free. By taking their smoking right outside people can improve the air quality in their home and protect the health of their families."

James Cant, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: "Everyone knows that cigarette smoke is harmful. What we don't all know is that more than 85% of smoke is invisible and has no smell. That hidden danger can linger and kids who are exposed are at greater risk of diseases from glue ear to asthma, meningitis and cot death.

"We have to get second-hand smoke right out of our homes and away from children. Every parent wants to do the right thing to protect their kids. This campaign will give them the tools and information to do just that."

Source: Scottish government

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