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     Secondhand smoke is linked to a variety of health risks one being, tooth decay. Kids between the ages of 4 and 11 who were exposed to a large amount of secondhand smoke were more than twice as likely to show signs of tooth decay. 

Secondhand smoke increases a child's risk of cavities 

Smoking harms children

    This study is not the first to show that the harms of smoking can extend to the teeth and gums, however. For example, researchers have shown that exposure to secondhand smoke does increase the risk of gum disease in adultsIt has been shown that nicotine can increase the growth of the cavity-causing bacterium in the mouth. 

     Children with the highest cotinine levels (a byproduct of nicotine in blood) had twice the risk of cavities in their baby teeth. It is suspected that secondhand smoking exposure could make a child more cavity-prone because women who smoke while pregnant increase their child's risk of a number of health problems, including:

bullet prematurity
bullet low birthweight 
bullet chronic illness. 

     All of these health problems, in turn, can increase the risk of cavities in young children.   The effects of secondhand smoke on teeth likely occur when a child is very young. And the large proportion of children exposed to secondhand smoke suggests that more needs to be done to protect children from this health risk.*


A new study finds early life exposure to second-hand smoke can produce life-long respiratory problems. The study of 35,000 adult non-smokers found that those who lived with a smoker during childhood had
more respiratory problems, including chronic cough. Study participants who reported eating more fruit and soy fiber as adults seemed to be protected against some of the negative health effects often  associated with early tobacco exposure.

Individuals 18 or younger, living with one or more smokers, were more Than twice as likely to suffer from chronic dry cough as adults, according to a new study published by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, the University of Minnesota, and the National University of ingapore. This paper, which appears online in "Thorax", is the largest study to date on the effects of childhood exposure to environmental  tobacco smoke (ETS) on later respiratory disease, and the first to include data on dietary intake.

Chronic cough was defined as occurring on most days for at least  three months of the year and lasting more than two years in a row.  More than 45 percent of the study participants reported having  fathers who smoked, and 19 percent reported having mothers who  smoked. The researchers found that more smokers in the home during  childhood, was linked to a greater incidence of chronic cough, and  chronic phlegm.  "We actually found that people who ate even a small amount of fruit fiber had less chronic cough related to environmental tobacco smoke."Study participants who ate more than 7.5 grams of fiber each day had   fewer health effects associated with ETS. This is equivalent to  eating about two apples a day.

Fiber may have beneficial effects on the lung. It seems to have the ability to reduce blood glucose concentrations, reduce inflammation, and enhance antioxidant processes. All of these may help to protect the lung against environmental insults, such as ETS in childhood.  However, the possible benefits of fiber should not lessen the importance of reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

NIEHS, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports Research to understand the effects of the environment on human health. For moreinformation about environmental tobacco smoke and other environmental health topics, please visit our website at
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- "The Nation's Medical  Research Agency" -- is comprised of 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component Of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures or both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS Vice President, International Federation of Dental Hygienists
Seminars for Women's Health 11/05

*SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association 2003;289:1258-1264.

February 06, 2008

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