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Smoking Parents Can Hook Kids On Nicotine

Charlie Fidelman – Canwest News Service – Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You know smoking sets a bad example for the kids and second-hand smoke is harmful. As if that wasn’t warning enough, a strongly worded Montreal study shows someone else’s smoke can lead to nicotine addiction in children.

“Increased exposure to second-hand smoke, both in cars and homes, was associated with an increased likelihood of children reporting nicotine dependence symptoms — even though these kids had never put a cigarette in their mouths,” said epidemiologist Jennifer O’Loughlin, senior author of the study and a professor at the Universite de Montreal.

Published in the September edition of the journal Addictive Behaviors, the study, involving nine Canadian institutions, builds on previous findings on second-hand smoke in non-smokers and withdrawal symptoms including depression, anxiety and trouble concentrating.

The physiological consequences of second-hand smoke have already been shown, O’Loughlin said of bar and restaurant workers (before the cigarette ban) with nicotine metabolites in their urine and saliva as if they had smoked.

Also, it is known that children exposed to second-hand smoke started smoking earlier than other children, said O’Loughlin who, in a previous study, mapped the stepping stones to tobacco addiction, showing it can take one puff to turn a teenager into a smoker.

The study looked at students age 10 and 11 from 29 Montreal area schools. It found an association between exposure to second-hand smoke and nicotine dependence.

Five per cent of 1,488 children who never smoked but were exposed to second-hand smoke reported symptoms of nicotine addiction.

“They told us, ‘I want it, I need it,’ and that they are physically and mentally addicted,” O’Loughlin said. “Why would a kid do that?”

Lead investigator Mathieu Belanger said he was surprised to see evidence of nicotine dependence in children as young as 10, even though they had never smoked.

“But we were not surprised to see it was related to second-hand smoke,” said Belanger, research director of the Centre de Formation Medicale du Nouveau Brunswick.

Researchers did not make a direct link between cause and effect, Belanger said.

“More studies are needed. But there’s a lesson for parents,” he added.

“Most (of those reporting nicotine dependence) came from homes of smokers,” Belanger said, or they had friends that already smoked. “Maybe there’s a genetic path we’re not yet exploring.”

While it may seem unconventional that non-smokers are reporting cigarette cravings, Belanger also noted tobacco studies have found toddlers with carcinogens in their blood related to second-hand smoke.

The next step will focus on following these children to see whether they pick up smoking faster than others, he said.

The study was funded by the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative, the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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