We all know that smoking during pregnancy can harm the developing foetus. If a woman falls pregnant and she is a smoker, she should stop smoking for the nine months that she is pregnant.
If a pregnant woman smokes, the organs and tissues of an unborn baby do not develop well, because less oxygen is carried in the blood of a smoking mother to her unborn baby.
There is a greater risk of miscarriage, premature labour or death at birth in pregnant women who are smokers. The presence of tobacco smoke has even been found in the blood of newborn babies. Babies born to smoking mothers are also smaller than babies of non-smoking mothers. They are more prone to coughs, colds, bronchitis and pneumonia than other babies, and may develop more slowly than babies of non-smoking mothers.
Smoking has a negative influence on the production of breastmilk. The poisons in cigarettes can pass through breastmilk of the smoking mother to her baby.
Not only babies are sensitive to the harmful effects of smoking. Children of smoking parents inhale the same amount of nicotine as if they themselves had smoked the cigarette. They get more serious chest illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia than children whose parents do not smoke. Research has also shown that exposure to smoking can have a negative impact on children's school performance during the early years.
Many studies have shown that children are more likely to smoke in the future, if one or both of their parents smoke. Children often use women as their role models. Mothers especially influence smoking behaviour.
Protecting your child
Parents who smoke should be aware of the dangers of tobacco and should do everything possible to discourage their children from smoking. Children should be provided with information about tobacco and be made aware of the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. They should be provided with information about the immediate and long-term health effects of tobacco use and the addictiveness of the product.
Even you don't smoke, your child could still be exposed to the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. Never take your child into the smoking area of a restaurant and don't allow anyone to smoke in a house, car, taxi, train or bus when children are present.
A recent study has shown that while smoking outside is better than smoking inside the house or other venue, it certainly doesn’t protect kids from passive smoke. The study found that the nicotine particles come back into the house with the parents after they smoked – in their hair and in their clothes. After that, the particles settle with dust on toys, bedding, carpets and furniture, or hang in the air until they were inhaled. The children in these homes were found to have eight times more nicotine in their bodies than the children of parents who didn’t smoke.
(Susan Erasmus, updated by Health24 - May 2014)