Most people know that cigarettes are bad for you, but they continue to be a common part of modern culture despite the number of health risks to the smoker.
While these known risks might not be enough to discourage people from smoking, perhaps the harmful effects on the people around them might be, especially when it affects their children.
Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
There is a growing body of evidence that secondhand smoke is hazardous to our health. Secondhand smoke has been implicated in an increased risk for heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer in people who do not smoke cigarettes but are exposed to secondhand smoke.
These health consequences are even more detrimental to children, whose young bodies are still developing and are particularly susceptible to environmental toxins. Exposure to secondhand smoke can set kids up for a lifetime of potential health issues.
According to an article on MSNBC.com, new research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine is suggesting that secondhand smoke might contribute to mental health problems, as well.
Affects on Mental Health
The relationship between cigarette smoke and mental health is not an area that has been extensively explored, and there is still some debate as to whether exposure to tobacco smoke can actually affect a child's mental well-being.
However, the statistics can be sobering. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five children between the ages of 9 and 17 has been diagnosed with some sort of mental or addictive disorder. When you couple this with the fact that two out of every three kids between the ages of 3 and 11 years is exposed to secondhand smoke, then it may be cause for concern.
To see if the two statistics were related, researchers conducted a study of over 900 non-smoking children between the ages of four and eight years. Exposure to smoke was measured by way of by-products in the saliva, and parents were asked to answer questions regarding the emotional and behavioral nature of the kids, as well as any social problems that may have existed.
What they found was that the greater level of secondhand smoke that a child was exposed to, the more their mental health suffered. This especially applied to hyperactivity and what was considered bad behavior. The differences were still valid even after such factors as asthma, level of physical activity, and socioeconomic status were taken into account.
Why cigarette smoke affects mental health is not clear, but some experts suggest that it might affect chemicals in the brain, or at the very least, the quality of life of the child who has to continually breathe it.
If You Smoke, You Should Quit
Perhaps every smoker has heard it to the point where they're sick of hearing it, but it simply goes without saying that if you smoke, then you should quit. This is probably something every smoker knows in their heart.
Sure, this is much easier said than done, but not impossible. I used to smoke, but that was almost 20 years ago, and at the time, I didn't think I could ever quit. It can, however, be done.
If you want to quit but are having difficulty, consider the following:
- Take it one day at a time. Don't worry about how many days it's been or how long you have to do it, just tell yourself you won't have a cigarette today, and repeat this every day.
- Be active. Nothing reminds you that cigarettes are bad for you more than the shortness of breath you will inevitably experience with physical activity.
- Surround yourself with people who do not smoke. Social stigma is a strong motivator.
- Reduce the stimuli that make you crave nicotine. Coffee and alcohol are the big culprits in this area.
- Seek professional help. Ask your doctor for help in quitting, they will be (or at least should be) more than happy to assist you.
- If quitting is not an option, then at the very least, try to smoke away from your children, and whenever possible, discourage them from taking up the habit, as well.
Most smokers I know have indicated at one time or another that they want to quit. In addition to the health problems, smoking is an expensive habit, so think of all the money that can be saved if you quit.