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Secondhand Smoke Has Lasting Effect on Children

Study finds increased risk of respiratory symptoms even in never-smoking adults

FRIDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Children who grow up with smokers are more likely to develop respiratory symptoms as adults even if they never become smokers themselves, according to a study published in the December issue of Thorax.

From 1999 to 2004, Stephanie J. London, M.D., of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues interviewed 35,000 never-smokers from a cohort of Singaporean adults of Chinese ethnicity.

The researchers found that 65% of the subjects had lived with a daily smoker before age 18. Few subjects currently lived (20%) or worked (4%) with smokers. The investigators determined that childhood exposure to secondhand smoke was associated with more than a doubled risk of chronic dry cough (OR 2.14) and a significantly increased risk of chronic phlegm without cough (OR 1.25), but they found no association with asthma or chronic bronchitis. They also found evidence suggesting that a low-fiber intake in childhood increased subjects' later risk of chronic dry cough or phlegm.

"These results emphasize the importance of reducing the exposure of children to tobacco smoke and other environmental pollutants," the authors conclude.

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