We already know how processed food is degrading our kids’ bones. And while smoking seems so 70s, people are still doing it around their kids and the effects are showing up in their hair. According to a new study at a medical school, 70% of children whose parents smoke were found to have nicotine residue in hair samples.
In the study, the researchers sought to examine whether raising awareness of children’s exposure by providing objective feedback might change the parents’ behavior and child exposure. Approximately 140 Israeli families participated in the study, parents of children up to age 8, in which at least one parent is a smoker.
The smoking average per household was 15 cigarettes per day, where one third of the respondents reported that they smoke inside the home, and an additional third said that they are in the habit of smoking on the terrace outside their apartment but not inside the home.
First, researchers tested children’s level of exposure via a biomarker, nicotine in hair, which indicates cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke. The researchers took hair samples from the children and tested the nicotine levels in each sample in a laboratory. (It is important to note that the test was for nicotine that became an integral part of the strand of hair and not just outside precipitate.)
The findings were very concerning: Nicotine residue was found in 70% of the hair of the children tested, and only 29.7% of those children tested did not show nicotine residue in their hair samples.
Nicotine can have long-term and harmful effects on a child or teenager’s brain. Regular use can lead to a nicotine use disorder and is associated with other substance use problems, as well as mood disorders in adulthood. Nicotine exposure is the same in utero for instance if a mother uses e-cigarettes. And detrimental developmental effects such as on immune system and the lungs can be significant.
The parents were shown the results over the course of the study and augmented their behavior, exposing their children to less smoke.
Prof. Leah Rosen who led the study at Tel Aviv University says: “To our great dismay, according to the Ministry of Health’s data, approximately 60% of small children in Israel are exposed to secondhand smoke and its harmful effects.
“Based on the study’s findings, we believe that conducting nicotine testing – in the hair, urine, or using other testing methods – for every young child in Israel, may change parents’ perceptions about exposing their children to tobacco smoke.
“Changing this perception can also result in changing behavior, exposure levels, and even social norms regarding passive exposure to smoking – both exposure of children as well as exposure of adults.
“Non-smokers must understand that there is genuine risk in exposure to tobacco smoke, and they must insist upon their right and the right of their children and family members to breathe air that is smoke-free everywhere.”
Like France, Israel has a high percentage of smokers at home, at restaurants and on sidewalks. The Middle East culture in general is addicted to smoking, and this includes bad habits like shisha pipe smoking and vaping.
The study was conducted under the leadership of a team of experts from the Tel Aviv University School of Medicine headed by Prof. Leah (Laura) Rosen of the School of Public Health together with researchers Dr. Vicki Myers, Prof. Nurit Guttman, Ms. Nili Brown, Prof. Mati Berkovitch, and Dr. Michal Bitan. Prof. David Zucker of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dr. Anna Rule of Johns Hopkins University in the US also participated in the study. The study was published in the prestigious journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research.