The dangers of smoking during pregnancy have long been known, with its most serious complications including stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight. Now, a new study says that mothers who breathe secondhand smoke are twice as likely to have children with attention and aggression problems.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing observed 646 mother and child pairs in China, where more than seventy percent (70%) of men smoke. It concluded that 25% of children whose mothers were exposed to secondhand smoke exhibited behavioral problems. This is a staggering difference compared to the children of unexposed mothers, which yielded 16% with such problems.
Using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), a widely used scale for assessing behavioral and emotional problems in children, researchers determined children of mothers with secondhand smoke exposure had 10% more prevalence of externalizing behavior problems than children of unexposed mothers. The results took factors like parental education, occupation, psychological problems and marriage status into account.
Apart from attention problems and aggression in the children observed, the results showed that children of passive smoking mothers demonstrated worse performance on tests of speech and language skills, intelligence, and conduct disorders.
It was posited that the reduction of blood and oxygen to the fetus, caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, altered brain growth and development during pregnancy thus resulting in altered behavior.
“Given the high prevalence of ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) exposure among pregnant women in China and the far-reaching effects of child behavioral disturbance on public health outcomes, it is critical to reduce ETS exposure in order to improve the health of not only mothers and their children but that of society at large,” said lead-author Jianghong-Liu, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor at Penn Nursing.
The new findings alarmed public health advocates, prompting them to call for stricter smoking regulations in the Philippines.
“This study underscores the need for stricter regulations on smoking in public places in the Philippines. We need 100% smoke-free environments, to be able to effectively protect our people from secondhand smoke. This is particularly important for the Philippines, which is among the top 20 smoking nations in the world,” said Atty. Diana Trivino, Project Manager at public health NGO HealthJustice. “If we are serious about sustainable public health, we also have to better educate our people about tobacco through picture warnings on cigarette packs. The picture warnings on cigarette packs will tackle the problem at its root, by ensuring that less people, especially among the youth, start smoking in the first place, and that current smokers will be encouraged to stop smoking.”
“These changes – graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and smoke-free environments – they cannot come soon enough for people like me,” said Emer Rojas, cancer survivor and President of New Vois Association of the Philippines. “As a former smoker who almost died because of my smoking, I will never stop campaigning so that people don’t experience what I went through because of my smoking.”
CONTACT: SOPHIA LEE (MEDIA CONSULTANT)
DIANA TRIVINO (PROJECT MANAGER)