Updated: July 31, 2018 1:31:45 pm
Living with a smoker can harm children in the long-term. It’s time for smokers to consider quitting the habit.
By Ritika Jain
People often do not take a child’s grievance as seriously as they would an adult’s. I’ve personally witnessed a bathroom full of smoke at a house I was visiting, and wondered how much the child must be suffering, when I myself found it so distressful.
If you live with a smoker, you’ll know how everything smells of smoke. This is actually third-hand smoke, particles that linger in a room even after the cigarette’s been extinguished. Secondhand smoke stays on the smoker’s hands and hair, and may yet come in contact with the child. Ideally, one should not smoke at all but if they do, they should certainly not do so indoors. Not only are they exposing their innocent kids to a harmful substance, but also setting an example for accepting a bad habit.
Dr. Neelam Bohra, a Delhi-based psychiatrist says, “When we’re growing up, we may have role models onscreen or off it. We especially tend to glamourise actions of who we admire, not separating the person from the habit. It’s this awareness that has led to statutory warnings in movies and banning of tobacco advertisements on television.”
“The government has taken disciplinary action against smoking in public places but not touched situations prevailing at home, which still need to be addressed seriously. Not only is secondhand smoke a major source of indoor air pollution, The National Toxicology Program and The International Agency for research on Cancer have classified environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as a class A (known human) carcinogen, along with asbestos, arsenic and benzene. Some of the immediate effects of passive smoking include eye irritation, headache, cough or sore throat, dizziness and nausea,” according to Dr Sajeela Maini, author of the book, The Last Puff. She also heads the Tobacco Cessation Centre in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi and is the president of The Tobacco Control Foundation of India.
“Asthma may be induced in children whose parents smoke. Infants with mothers who smoke have five times the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They also suffer from reduced birth weight and reduced lung functioning. Passive smoking may also effect children’s mental development,” adds Dr. Maini.
A child I spoke with may not have actively protested but did not like her father’s habit. She thinks it’s bad for his health. So, how hard is it to quit? I spoke with a parent of an 11-year-old. Although he had never smoked in front of his daughter, he was consuming two packs a day and was aware of the potential long-term risks. Initially, he tried nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) with substitutes like nicotine gum but that didn’t work. Eventually he quit nicotine altogether in any form, and his advice is to quit cold. It takes immense will power but it’s good to know that the effects of nicotine withdrawal are temporary. The first week after your last cigarette is easy because you’re pushing yourself psychologically. It gets harder and withdrawal peaks during the next two to three months before subsiding gradually. This is when one must stay strong.
Come September, the government will make it mandatory to print the ‘Quitline’ number 1800-11-2356 on every cigarette pack. This is aimed at bringing about awareness and a positive change in the behaviour of tobacco users. Joining a support group or a de-addiction centre for a detoxification program may not be a bad idea either. In case your teenager has picked up the habit, you can consult a cessation therapist at a hospital.
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