Prevention & Recovery

Secondhand smoke can affect your toddler's weight

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Prevention & Recovery

Secondhand smoke can affect your toddler's weight

We've come a long way from the days when it was considered acceptable to smoke while pregnant, or to smoke around children. It's now known that women who light up while they're expecting can lower their newborn's birth weight, increase the baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and increase the chances of the child having health problems—including bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks and ear infections—either in infancy or later in life.

Now there's another caution: Université de Montréal researchers have found that when parents smoke around toddlers, the children are likely to have a wider waist and higher BMI (body mass index, a body fat measurement based on height and weight) by age 10 than peers who have grown up with non-smokers. These are signs that children who breathe in secondhand smoke might be at risk of obesity and related health problems.

In a press release, the researchers stated that 40 percent of children worldwide are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes.

The study reviewed health information from 2,055 families in Quebec, and found that even children who had been only intermittently exposed to smoke were likely to have waists up to 1.5 centimetres wider and BMI scores that ranged between 0.48 and 0.81 points higher than their peers in nonsmoking environments.

As bad as smoking when pregnant
To put that in perspective, the effects are similar to those in children whose mothers smoked while pregnant. (Other research has shown that adults who were exposed to smoke in the womb are also more likely to be obese—even if their moms gave up smoking after a few weeks.)

Lead author Linda Pagani, a professor at the Université de Montréal's School of Psychoeducation and a researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, said that while the difference in measurements may seem small, the change in waist and BMI happens during a key developmental stage that can set patterns for life. The connection isn't totally clear, but it seems smoke and nicotine might be affecting the body in ways that trigger both the accumulation of fat and the ability to process sugar and to benefit from exercise.

Whether you have children yourself or not, if you smoke, it's best to butt out around kids.

Read on for six ways to quit smoking and what you need to know about vaping.

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Prevention & Recovery

Secondhand smoke can affect your toddler's weight

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