Kids face the brunt of passive smoking

While citizens are increasingly talking about the growing menace of pollution in the city, doctors bring out a secondary cause of pollution which is proving fatal for children in the city. A case study of Swati Sinha is important to elucidate how passive smoking is now as dangerous as smoking itself.  Life was a challenge for Swati*, a three-year-old child, about to start with her kindergarten. Suffering from asthma since infancy, Swati would be often left gasping for breath and end up getting admitted to a hospital owing to frequent asthmatic attacks.

Shockingly, in spite of regular medications, her condition was aggravating day by day and the cause was her 36-year-old father, Anubhav Sinha’s chronic habit of smoking.

“Failure to quit smoking by parents can lead to extreme health problems in their children, ranging from chronic cough to asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis and even death in case the mother smokes during pregnancy. Considering that inhalation of second hand smoke interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, lungs and vascular system of the child, it is important to create awareness among smokers about the magnitude of the ill effects caused by tobacco smoke and provide effective solutions to help them quit smoking,” says Dr P P Bose, Chest Physician, National Heart Institute.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), children are the most susceptible to the detrimental effects of cigarette smoke since they have developing lungs and the small particle size of second hand smoke can easily penetrate their airways. It has also been found that smoking inside the home leads to considerable maternal and fetal exposure to such smoke and may subsequently affect fetal health.

Like in Swati’s case, incessant exposure to second hand smoke increased the frequency of episodes and severity of her asthma symptoms. While parents are aware of the repercussions, but being unable to quit smoking is a deterrent.

So, what is the way out? Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a novel solution to aid smoking cessation by providing nicotine, but in lesser amounts than in cigarettes. This allows the body to gradually adjust to having less nicotine until one no longer needs it, thereby helping to quit smoking.

NRT is recommended by world bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The WHO included two forms of NRT, that is nicotine gum and nicotine patch, in its model list of essential medicines. Nicotex gums are well known and in the year 1996, the US FDA also approved the change of nicotine gum from ‘Prescription Only’ status to Over-The-Counter (OTC) availability. They are not only effective, but are also safe to use and do not result in side-effects when used as recommended.

“Since nicotine gums contains nicotine, there is a likelihood that one may get addicted to these gums while attempting to give up smoking; especially when these nicotine gums are consumed for a longer period of time.

So a proper weaning off process needs to be adhered. The physical cravings for cigarette are acute during the first 72 hours of quitting; and taper after the first week of quitting the stick. In the similar way, we can taper the consumption of the nicotine gum accordingly. And eventually, we should plan complete weaning off from the nicotine gum therapy as well,” says Sajeela Maini, Consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.

‘*’ name changed on request.

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