This Adult Habit Has Some Serious Consequences For Kids – Even When They Become Adults

We all have bad habits or vices, but when we become parents, we try to help our children make healthy choices and avoid our mistakes.

With so much recent news coverage on the dangers of vaping, medical professionals are concerned that many adults may return to cigarette use.

While it’s common knowledge that smoking is dangerous, you may be surprised at the long-term effects on children.

Most parents who smoke know that second-hand exposure can put others in danger, so they smoke outside away from their children.

But the truth is, as kids grow up, adult smokers are more likely to smoke around their children while running errands, on outings, or even while relaxing in the backyard.

We’re all a little more vigilant with younger children, and research shows that older children and teens are more likely to be exposed to their parents’ smoking habit.

There are serious implications to this.  While we may think older kids understand that smoking is dangerous, their likelihood of eventually smoking is much higher than children of non-smokers.

But besides the obvious – that children model their parents’ behaviors (the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality) – children who grow up with parents who smoke have a much higher risk of poor health.

Asthma, allergies, and other respiratory issues are far more common in children of smokers, but an even more serious health issue has now been researched.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology released their findings last month on the long-term effects of children who grow up with parents who smoke.

Adults who were raised in a household where one or both parents smoked are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation – or a-fib.

This cardiac condition occurs when the atria of the heart – its upper chambers – contract abnormally or irregularly.

While an episode of a-fib is not immediately life-threatening, over time, damage to the heart and blood vessels can occur.  This can lead to heart failure or stroke.

The research was conducted over two generations of families – parents who smoked when their children were growing up and the impact on those children once they became adults.

Because parents who smoke often have children who grow up and pick up the habit, these now-adult children who smoke had a 32 percent greater risk of developing a-fib.

But even adults who were raised by parents who smoked – and never started smoking themselves – had a 14 percent greater risk of developing a-fib than if they had been raised in non-smoking homes.

And the danger increases the more parents smoked during their childhood.  For every pack of cigarettes per day a parent smoked, their child’s lifetime risk increased by 18 percent.

The study suggests that — because many of the children of smokers were non-smoking adults and still experienced a-fib – second-hand smoke was the culprit.

While more research needs to be done, exposure to second-hand smoke in childhood may permanently change the atria’s structure and how the chambers of the heart function.

While the link is more concrete with actual smoking, more is being learned about the relationship between second-hand smoke exposure during youth and adult a-fib.

Second-hand smoke exposure doesn’t just mean a smoker is releasing harmful chemicals in their immediate area.  These chemicals can cling to hair and clothing and can travel a good distance.

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Because the pulmonary vein carries blood from the lungs to the heart, it makes sense that second-hand smoke could attribute to a-fib – although the study is not concrete proof of that.

What has been proven is that exposure to second-hand smoke causes over 400 cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) annually, and leads to thousands of respiratory illnesses in children, especially under 18 months of age.

The American Lung Association states that second-hand smoke exposure causes a shocking 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections in infants and children each year.  Many of those lead to hospitalization.

And, again, with so much about vaping in the news, medical professionals are now researching the effects of second-hand exposure to e-cigarettes as well.

We do know these products release nicotine, heavy metals, and carcinogenic chemicals that may be just as dangerous to children whose parents vape as the children of cigarette smokers.

We all want what’s best for our children, and we all do our best to shield them from hazards that are under our control.  

The best bet for everyone in the family?  Do whatever you can to kick the habit.  Your children will thank you someday.

Are you surprised by the possible link between second-hand smoke as a child and the risk of atrial fibrillation once they become adults?  Leave us your comments.