Secondhand smoke may affect kids' mental health

NEW YORK Thu Apr 7, 2011 4:23pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Breathing secondhand smoke could increase a child's risk of mental and behavioral disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suggests a new study.

The study adds to evidence suggesting that kids of mothers who smoked while pregnant may be more likely to have behavioral problems. Secondhand smoke exposure has also been linked to heart and breathing problems in kids.

"It's time for us to begin to prevent children's exposure to (secondhand smoke) if we are serious about preventing these diseases," Dr. Bruce Lanphear, who heads the Cincinnati Children's Environmental Health Center, told Reuters Health.

"We have sufficient evidence to prevent many of these diseases, but we don't," added Lanphear, who was not involved in the study.

The authors, led by Frank Bandiera of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, studied the link between secondhand smoke and mental health in a nationally representative sample of almost 3,000 kids ages 8 to 15.

Researchers measured the level of cotinine - which forms when nicotine in tobacco breaks down - in each kid's blood to find which kids had been exposed to secondhand smoke. Kids with the highest levels of cotinine were considered to be smokers themselves, and were not included in the study.

The researchers also interviewed all kids to see which ones showed symptoms of a mental or behavioral disorder.

After taking into account factors such as age and race, boys who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to show symptoms of ADHD, depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder than those with no secondhand smoke exposure. Girls who were exposed to secondhand smoke had more symptoms of ADHD and anxiety only.

However, the number of kids actually diagnosed with most of the conditions was still small. While 201 kids, or about 7 percent, had enough symptoms of ADHD to be diagnosed with the disorder, only 15 kids were diagnosed with depression and 9 with an anxiety disorder.

Researchers acknowledge that it can be difficult to separate the effects of secondhand smoke from harm caused by mothers smoking while those children were in the womb.

In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Jonathan Samet from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California said that more research is needed to determine how exactly exposure to secondhand smoke could affect kids' brains.

Bandiera also noted that the study can't prove that secondhand smoke causes mental and behavioral disorders. But in the meantime, he told Reuters Health, "We should keep the kids away from secondhand smoke."

His study was published online Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine alongside research from UK authors also showing a link between secondhand smoke exposure and poor mental health in about 900 kids.

The U.S. Surgeon General has estimated that about 60 percent of children are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Lanphear said that while there might not be enough definitive evidence to tie secondhand smoke exposure to mental health problems, it would be a "surprise" if there was not a link between the two.

The authors conclude that more efforts are needed both to ban smoking in all public places where there are children and to prevent kids from being exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, online April 4, 2011.

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Comments (4)
JimBlogg wrote:
It is well known that people with any of the mental disorders described tend to smoke to relieve their symptoms and that these disorders are handed down to their kids genetically.

So did Bandiera or any of the other researchers involved stop to think that genetics may have been the sole reason for the kids’ symptoms, and that secondary smoke may not have played a role at all? Of course they did, they’re smart people, but adjusting for that fact or even mentioning it in the study would have destroyed the agenda that dictated the study.

As a result, we have yet another scientifically worthless anti-tobacco study and more money added to the wasted billions that have been spent in an attempt to force smokers to quit, with minimal results over the last 20 years.

Is anyone besides me wondering where we would be at now in the fight against cancer if these billions would have been more wisely spent in research for better treatments and screening methods? Or other diseases?

Wake up America, your health depends on it!

Apr 08, 2011 1:38am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DavidS95 wrote:

Thanks. I agree 100% with you. I don’t like smoking but these studies are a waste of money

Apr 08, 2011 11:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
5tudentT wrote:
JimBlogg – This is Reuters, not a medical journal. We don’t know anything beyond what the reporter thought he heard.

Maybe, possibly, the study was part of a vast anti-smoking conspiracy. On the other hand maybe it’s just you’re spin and you’re conducting a pro-smoking campaign. Maybe your talk of wasted, misdirected efforts is a … smokescreen.

As for the minimal results of the war on smoking, when will the general public figure out that prohibition doesn’t work? Alcohol, nicotine, and every other recreational drug should be legal, regulated, and taxed. People should be informed of the risks up front, and be ready to take their lumps when their livers, lungs, veins, or brains fail.

Apr 08, 2011 11:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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