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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Parents 'ignorant' of smoking risks
The study looked at the health risks of passive smoking
The survey is released on World No Tobacco Day
Parents are unaware of the health risks of passive smoking on their children, a survey suggests.

Only a quarter of parents are aware asthma can be a risk.

And just 3% of parents identified cot death as a consequence of passive smoking.

The survey for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) launched on Thursday - World No Tobacco Day - says the two in five children in the UK who live with at least one smoker are at risk.


Parents must recognise that passive smoking causes ill-health in children

Amanda Sandford,
ASH
But it says only 22% of parents identified respiratory illness as a risk.

However, ASH says parents in other countries are taking note of the health risks of passive smoking to children.

It highlights Australia, where the number of people who restricted smoking in their homes rose from 2% in 1989 to 32% in 1997.

ASH's research manager Amanda Sandford said: "Parents must recognise that passive smoking causes ill-health in children."

She told BBC News Online: "Parents who smoke must accept there is a risk attached not only to their health, but to their children's too."

She called for more government campaigns to raise parents' awareness of the risks to their children of developing illnesses including asthma, bronchitis and glue ear.

'Limit exposure'

She said: "Clearly, the best way to eliminate children's exposure to passive smoking is for parents to stop smoking and to make their homes smoke-free."

But she said if parents could not or would not stop smoking, they should try to limit their child's exposure to tobacco smoke.

Amanda Sandford:
Amanda Sandford: more awareness needed among parents
ASH quotes World Health Organization figures which indicates babies are at five times greater risk of cot death if their mothers smoke.

Children also have a 20 to 40% increased risk of asthma if they are exposed to tobacco smoke, and a 70% increased risk of respiratory problems if their mother smokes.

ASH says 17,000 children are hospitalised every year because of passive smoking.

The survey was carried out by SmokeFree London. The questioned 2,000 people, 22% of whom were parents.

'Hidden agenda'

A spokesman for a smokers' rights group FOREST said it accepted some parents need to be more aware of potential health risks of smoking at home.


What are they going to do if parents don't comply? Take their kids away?

Simon Clark,
FOREST
But Simon Clark, director of FOREST, said he was concerned that the ASH report had a "hidden agenda", and added: "Not content with restricting or banning smoking in public places, ASH now want to ban smoking in the home and this is how they intend to do it.

"What are they going to do if parents don't comply? Take their kids away? Prosecute them for child abuse?

"ASH is pursuing a dangerous course. There is a fine line between educating people and harassing them and this latest initiative could mark the point at which they completely lose the plot."

In a move backed by ASH, the National Childminding Association (NCA) has called for the reversal of government regulations which allow childminders to smoke in front of children if parents give permission.

Gill Haynes, chief executive if the NCA, said: "Registered childminders have not asked for and do not want the so called 'right' to smoke in front of young children.

"It is bad for children's health and a terrible example to set young children."

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See also:

20 May 01 | Health
Smoking boosts impotence risk
01 May 01 | Health
Tooth decay link to passive smoke
31 May 00 | Scotland
Crusade against passive smoking
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