More than three-quarters of fourth-graders are exposed to second-hand smoke, according to a new analysis by Georgia scientists.
The study, involving 428 fourth graders and 453 parents in seven rural and seven urban Georgia schools, found measurable levels of a nicotine byproduct in the children’s saliva that documents their tobacco exposure.
Researchers – who presented their findings to the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore -- also reported urban children have more exposure to smokers than those living in rural areas: 79.6 percent versus 75.3 percent. In addition, urban children are more likely to be smokers – 14.9 percent versus 6.6 percent – compared to rural dwellers.
"It's bad news," said Dr. Martha S. Tingen, co-director of Georgia Health Sciences University's Child Health Discovery Institute. "Smoking is one of the major causes of low-birth weight infants, it increases the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by 10 times, increases breathing problems, asthma-related hospital admissions, ear and upper-respiratory infections, yet all these kids are living in a smoking environment."
In a related study of 2,636 eighth-to-10th graders in four rural Georgia schools, GHSU researchers found nearly 40 percent of white girls and 27 percent of white boys with wheezing, coughing asthma symptoms said they smoked.
Researchers said the findings suggest pediatricians need to talk with parents and children about smoking habits during every checkup and help them avoid or stop smoking.