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Smokers' rights just received another large bucket of cold water. A new study says that children who live in apartment buildings are affected by secondhand smoke -- from other apartments.
Even those children who live in apartments where no one in the family smokes are showing elevated levels of a byproduct chemical from tobacco smoke in their systems.
A study of over 5,000 children living in multi-unit housing found that 99% of white children showed levels of the tobacco byproduct cotinine in their blood, while 96% of African American children did as well, according to a report by Time. This result should be of concern to parents as other research has shown even low levels of cotinine can result in long term cognitive problems and changes in antioxidant levels that can affect children's health.
"If you think about it, we protect bartenders and wait staff and flight attendants from secondhand smoke, and yet we don't protect children where they "work" all day long and live at night. If we think about it that way, it makes sense to think about how we can protect children better," lead researcher Dr. Karen Wilson at University of Rochester told Time.
To compound the warnings presented by this study, the 2010 Surgeon General's report on tobacco also says there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
It is possible that levels of "thirdhand smoke," residue from the hair and clothes of smokers, can contribute to levels of cotinine in the children studied, but Dr. Wilson says just the residue would not cause the levels seen in these kids. So now, since evidence is emerging that secondhand smoke endangers children, will lawsuits for injuries directly linked to levels of cotinine be next?
As a result of studies like these, federal health authorities are encouraging a ban on smoking in public housing, reports Time. With the dangers of secondhand smoke to children (and adults) being better understood all the time, maybe a New Year's resolution to kick the habit should be first on every smoker's list.