24 Mar 2010 00:00:00.000
One of the country’s leading experts in tobacco control studies says it is time to take smoking completely out of children’s lives.
Professor John Britton and his team of experts at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS), based at The University of Nottingham, are calling for the promotion of smoke-free homes with the help of behavioural interventions for parents who smoke, legislation to prohibit smoking in all vehicles and new approaches to the problem such as short-term nicotine substitution.
The UKCTCS has taken a leading role in a new report for the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), funded by Cancer Research UK, which says passive smoking can lead to a host of chronic diseases in children - all of which are entirely avoidable.
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John Britton, Professor of Epidemiology at The University of Nottingham and Director of the (UKCTCS), based at The University of Nottingham is also Chair of the RCP Tobacco Advisory Group. He said: “This report isn’t just about protecting children from passive smoking, it’s about taking smoking completely out of children’s lives.”
Using evidence-based research and analysis Professor Britton and his team found that children subjected to passive smoking face an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infection, asthma, middle ear disease and bacterial meningitis. Their results highlight the risk of maternal smoking and showed that living in a household in which one or more people smoke more than doubles the risk of sudden infant death. This also stores up problems for future generations as children growing up with parents or siblings who smoke are around 90 per cent more likely to become smokers themselves.
The team estimates that passive smoking causes around 20,500 new cases of lower respiratory tract infection in children under the age of 3 years and 121,400 new cases of middle ear disease in children of all ages in the UK each year; passive smoking causes 22,600 new cases of wheeze and asthma in UK children each year; and there are at least 200 cases of bacterial meningitis caused by passive smoking every year.
These cases of disease result in over 300,000 UK general practice consultations, and about 9,500 hospital admissions in the UK each year.
However, the team studied only the more common and other selected disease outcomes and suggest that the figures underestimate the true burdens of disease caused by passive smoking. They say this entire excess disease burden is avoidable.
The report from the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians will be published on Wednesday 24 March 2010. The press conference will be chaired by Professor John Britton and feature authors of key chapters in the report.
The Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson has welcomed the report. In the Foreward he says one of the biggest impacts of smoking around children is that adult smokers can be seen as role models, increasing the likelihood that the child will, in due course, also become a regular smoker. Preventing this means that adults take responsibility to stop smoking in front of their children at home, or in places where children may see them smoke. He warns that success will demand far more radical approaches to tobacco prevention, particularly in terms of price, mass media campaigns, and the consideration of generic packaging, and wider smoke-free public policy covering cars, entrances to public buildings, parks, and other outdoor places frequented by children. Professor Donaldson emphasises that protecting children is a health priority and says adult smoking behaviour must radically change to achieve that. This report, he adds, identifies the reasons why, and what should be done to achieve it.
Professor Terence Stephenson, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which is supporting the report, said: "The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has recently led on the call to ban smoking in cars with children travelling in them. We should be making cars totally smoke-free if there are children travelling in them. Second-hand smoke has been found to be strongly linked to chest infections in children, asthma, ear problems and sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. We strongly support the policy recommendations in this new report and repeat the call for new approaches to address this problem so that we protect the health of children and young people."
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Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation – School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) is a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence with funding from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research.