Secondhand Smoke Can Create Symptoms of Nicotine Addiction in Non-Smoking Teens
According to a new study, mere exposure to secondhand smoke can spur symptoms of nicotine dependence in non-smoking pre-teens.
Not only that, the study also indicated that pre-teens who repeatedly observe a parent, sibling friend or neighbor smoking cigarettes are more likely to pick up the habit themselves as adolescents.
“Kids who see others smoking are more likely to take up the habit because they don’t perceive cigarettes as unhealthy,” said lead study author Simon Racicot, a PhD candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of its Pediatric Public Health Psychology Lab.
“We found that kids who’d never smoked who were exposed to tobacco use were more likely to hold positive beliefs about [cigarettes],” Racicot added. “These are the kids who are more likely to start smoking as teenagers.”
This study is the first to show that increased exposure to secondhand smoke can induce symptoms of nicotine dependence in children who have never smoked before. Nicotine dependence symptoms include craving cigarettes and finding it hard to go without smoking.
“Early findings suggest that secondhand smoke exposure could possibly trigger addiction in the brain – before kids actually start smoking themselves,” explained senior author Jennifer McGrath, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and director of its Pediatric Public Health Psychology Lab.
According to McGrath, 60 percent of children across North America are exposed to secondhand smoke. The researchers recommend that new prevention efforts should be tailored to pre-teens who are highly exposed.
“When it comes to smoking around kids, the best thing a parent can do is to avoid exposing their kids to cigarettes and to secondhand smoke,” says Racicot. “A parent should step outside of their home or car to smoke. And the addictive habit should remain out of sight, out of breath and out of mind.”
The study was published in the Oxford journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.