Smoking rates in countries like the US and UK are on the decline. Matter of fact, they are at their lowest ever.
But with millions still smoking, there is still plenty of secondhand and third-hand smoke (more about this shortly) risking the health of other people, children included in that list.
While adults who wish to avoid exposure have options, children – and especially babies – have little say in the matter and are at the mercy of not just parents or relatives who smoke, but also others like babysitters and daycare workers.
The dangers of secondhand smoke are well known. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 600,000 people die each year from secondhand smoke. Among these, 165,000 are children. That’s a huge number.
The smoke from a lit cigarette contains around 6,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful, including about 50 that are known to cause different types of cancer.
Babies who live with smokers or under the care of smoking babysitters have a higher risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
There is also an increased risk of bronchitis and developing ear infections among children who breathe secondhand smoke, not to mention coughs, colds, and pneumonia. These children are also more likely to have a stuffy nose, wheeze, and experience eye irritation, headaches, and difficulty recovering from respiratory infections.
These risks are what your baby may be exposed to in the short term. Over the long-term, secondhand smoke may affect the baby’s development (infant brain is especially sensitive to nicotine) and they are more likely to become smokers themselves.
Assuming they never take up cigarettes, they are at an elevated risk of developing cataracts, lung cancer, and heart disease; rheumatoid arthritis even.
With regard to third-hand smoke, this is the residue that lingers in living spaces, on clothes, furniture etc.
A team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati studying the effects of smoking around children noted that third-hand smoke may even carry greater risk than secondhand smoke as it contains what they termed “novel pollutants” that are not found in secondhand smoke.
Plus, third-hand smoke has a much longer exposure period, not to mention multiple exposure routes (skin, clothes, furniture etc.).
A babysitter who smokes will always carry with them smidges of these health-robbing toxicants with them, which is passed on to the baby.
Vaping as an alternative
It is for these reasons that you should not only prohibit smoking near your baby, but also avoid babysitters who smoke. As mentioned, there is also the risk of third-hand smoke; so they don’t necessary need to light up near the baby to endanger the child’s health.
If you are a smoker yourself and have a baby or taking on babysitting duties, cigarettes are not something you’ll probably drop overnight – although if you can, that would be Gr-reat.
Realistically, though, what you’d be doing by switching to vaping as a smoking alternative is putting not just your health interests first, but those of the baby too.
While the facts seem to be contradicting (like much of anything else really) a lot of the evidence already out considers vaping a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.
While no one is unequivocally saying vaping is 100% safe, what is known is that e-cigarettes do not emit the 6,000 or so chemicals released by combustible cigarettes. That’s because there is no tobacco combustion taking place.
There is little research into the effects of secondhand vapor on humans, but studies conducted on the effects of vapor and its key constituents (vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, and flavoring) on animals haven’t raised any alarm.
Look, nobody is advocating to have babysitters who smoke or vape to use their e-cig devices around babies.
Point is, if you must, vaping can be called a lesser evil compared to smoking that has already been established to cause hundreds of thousands of infant deaths globally each year.
Notably, though, the best thing to do would be to abstain from smoking or vaping around our babies and children in general.