Cigarette Smoking and Health Issues in Children

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the United States, accounting for more than 420,000 deaths per year. Chronic cigarette smoking is linked to various severe medical conditions, including cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Although cigarette smoking has always been viewed as an adult health issue, but in recent years, it is becoming evident, as it is also a paediatric one. There is evidence suggesting smoking is a pediatric concern in two ways. Most smokers begin in early adolescence, often by the age of 16. Few smokers start smoking after they graduate from high school.

Incidence and Prognosis of Cigarette Smoking

Since 1975, the Monitoring the Future Study (2002) has tracked drug usage among high school seniors. Recent surveys have incorporated data from 8th and 10th students, allowing for adolescent comparisons. As of 2001, rates of cigarette smoking among teenagers were still declining. Daily smoking among eighth graders is approximately half of what it was in 1996.

In 2001, the lifetime prevalence rates for eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders were 36.6, 52.8, and 61.0, respectively; daily usage prevalence rates were 5.5, 12.2, and 19.0, respectively. The health consequences of ETS are extensively documented. ETS exposure is projected to cause up to two million ear infections, over 500,000 doctor visits for asthma, over 400,000 episodes of bronchitis, and around 200,000 occurrences of pneumonia in children under the age of five per year. It is estimated that 38% of children aged two months to 5 years are exposed to tobacco smoke at home.

Efforts to prevent cigarette smoking among children and adolescents are promising and should be included in all school programs. While just a few controlled trials have been published, quick intervention options for lowering kid ETS exposure look promising. The fact that few adult smokers start smoking after the age of 18 is possibly the most significant evidence for intensive programs to reduce smoking in youngsters. Childhood smoking prevention and treatment may be critical in tackling this catastrophic health problem.

The Power of Nicotine Addiction

Many smokers claim they continue to smoke despite understanding the health dangers. The fact is that most people do not choose to smoke. Tobacco usage is an addiction for most smokers, and nicotine is the principal chemical in tobacco that causes addiction. The nicotine from one puff of a cigarette only takes 10 seconds to reach the brain. One of the reasons cigarettes are so addictive is the quick transfer of nicotine from the lungs to the brain.

Moreover, once there, nicotine triggers brain cells to produce dopamine. One of the benefits of dopamine produced in the brain is an increase in alertness and satisfaction. Smokers' brain cells evolve to expect frequent bursts of increased dopamine from smoking. When a smoker attempts to stop, these brain modifications intensify cravings for more nicotine.

Some cigarettes are now more addictive than those from previous decades. This is due, in part, to chemicals added to today's cigarettes, which allow nicotine to enter the brain more quickly. Furthermore, menthol softens the smoke and makes it more appealing to smokers, particularly youngsters and teenagers. According to research, children and teenagers are more susceptible to nicotine addiction than adults. When people start smoking, the younger they are, the more likely they are to get hooked and the more likely they are to become highly dependent.

Many young individuals underestimate the addictive potential of nicotine. Even if they want to quit in a few years, three out of every four high school smokers will become adult smokers.

In addition to producing addiction, nicotine supplied quickly by cigarettes can have additional effects on the body. A quick increase in nicotine blood levels, for example, can increase heart rate and blood pressure while also narrowing arteries surrounding the heart. Nicotine exposure during pregnancy has long-term impacts on brain development. Nicotine is poisonous in high enough quantities, and nicotine poisoning can be extremely severe or even fatal. However, the most prevalent and significant side effect of nicotine is addiction. Nicotine addiction causes people to smoke for extended periods, and the longer they smoke, the more harm they inflict on their bodies.

Correlates of Cigarette Smoking

Smoking has been demonstrated to raise the risk of SIDS, particularly during pregnancy. The overlap between women who smoke during and after pregnancy confounds studies of postnatal exposure and SIDS, and it may be hard to identify an independent connection between ETS exposure and SIDS. Several studies have identified dose-response relationships between the amount of smoking in the home and SIDS.

However, few have accurately evaluated potential confounding factors such as the infants' resting posture. According to Klonoff-Cohen and colleagues (1995), children exposed to ETS were 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with SIDS. Extrapolating this risk to SIDS fatalities, the study shows that ETS may have been responsible for up to 2,000-3,000 deaths in 1993.

Electronic Cigarettes

Many tobacco businesses now manufacture and market electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes, vape pens, and e-hookahs. These devices release nicotine as an aerosol, breathed into the lungs like cigarette smoke. There has been no research on the long-term health implications of e-cigarettes and other ENDS usage or if ENDS use leads to cigarette smoking among kids.

However, because nicotine is addictive, poisonous to developing foetuses, and detrimental to teenage brain development, no kid should use e-cigarettes or other tobacco products. Although cigarettes can no longer be marketed on TV, radio, billboards, or in youth-oriented periodicals, ENDS can be advertised anywhere.

Second-hand Smoke Exposure

Because of the women’s smoking habit, more than 400,000 infants born in the United States every year are (by default) exposed to cigarette smoke before birth. As report states that in last 50 years, 100,000 newborns have died only because of smoking-related prematurity, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or other illnesses induced by chemical exposure to secondhand smoke during infancy or before birth.

As per the repot, over half of all children between the ages of 3 and 18 in the United States, are frequently exposed to cigarette smoke at home or in settings such as restaurants that still allow smoking. Children exposed to secondhand smoke suffer more ear infections, respiratory infections, and asthma episodes and miss more days of school than those who are not exposed. Furthermore, the cases of secondhand smoke in India, is also growing. Especially in urban areas, working women frequently smoke, which effect can be seen on their children.


Cigarette smoking is a leading preventable cause of mortality in the US and is linked to various severe medical conditions. It is also linked to an elevated risk of pediatric disorders like asthma and sudden infant death syndrome. ETS exposure is linked to SIDS, asthma, lower respiratory infections, middle ear effusion, otitis media, and sensory irritants. Prevention is essential for these youngsters. Counseling moms about ETS exposure in children appears to reduce risk. School-based programs must incorporate evidence-based curricula, establish tobacco-free policies, and provide teacher training, parental participation, and cessation support.

Updated on: 09-May-2023


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