Parental smoking linked to depression and anxiety in children

Article by Sharon Kirkey
Published in The Vancouver Sun on Monday, May 1, 2006

Parents who smoke not only risk making themselves sick, they could be making their children depressed, anxious or aggressive.

Cincinnati scientists who studied 225 children, ages five to 11, found those with the highest levels of exposure to tobacco smoke had more behavior problems, such as fidgeting, acting out and not paying attention in school.

There was a clear dose-response effect: The bigger the exposure, the bigger the problems.

However, children breathing in even low levels of cigarette smoke had behavior issues.

“With tobacco, we’re not really seeing a threshold where there’s no effect,” said Kimberly Yolton, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, who presented her date Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco.

“We’re seeing effects on these outcomes at levels that are very low.”
All the children had asthma, but Yolton suspects the results would apply to any child living in a smoky home.

According to a 1999 study commissioned by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, more than 1.6 million Canadian children under the age of 12 are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes.

Second-hand smoke, has already been linked with ear infections, croup, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and even cancers and leukemia’s in children. Now, “exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for child behavior problems,” Yolton said.

Yolton last year published a study showing exposure to second-hand smoke affects a child’s reading and math skills.
In the new study, the Cincinnati developmental psychologist and colleagues scoured hospital billings records, looking for children with asthma.

“We then made a million and a half phone calls,” screening the families to see which children were living in houses where they were exposed to at least five cigarettes a day (the average was 14 cigarettes per day).

The researchers took blood and hair samples, measuring continine, a substance the body produces when it breaks down nicotine, to get an accurate measure of how much tobacco smoke the children were actually exposed to. They interviewed parents and also took reports from the children’s teachers.

CanWest News Service