Thousands of children in East Sussex are being exposed every day to the ‘invisible menace’ of second-hand smoke, health chiefs have warned.
Across the county, 42 per cent of 14 to 15-year-olds live in a house where someone smokes indoors on most days, exposing them to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, meningitis and sudden infant death syndrome.
In addition to the immediate harm of breathing in second-hand smoke, children of smokers are three times more likely to start smoking themselves – increasing their chances of further health problems in adult life.
East Sussex County Council is working with partners through the East Sussex Tobacco Partnership to promote a new campaign highlighting the dangers of second-hand smoke and what people can do to avoid it.
Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting director of public health, said: “Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health, but some smokers do not realise the harm their smoke is doing to others around them – especially children.
“Some people mistakenly believe that by smoking out of the car window or standing by the kitchen door they are shielding loved-ones from the effects of smoke, but in fact 80 per cent of second-hand smoke cannot be seen and is odourless.
“By smoking around children, adults are exposing them to an invisible menace that contains 4,000 chemicals and 50 known carcinogens.
“The message is clear – there is no such thing as safe exposure to smoke, and the only way adults can protect children is to make their homes and cars completely smoke-free.”
Every year across the country, nearly 10,000 children are treated in hospital for exposure to second-hand smoke, at a cost to the NHS of more than £23 million, but 68 per cent of parents who smoke admit to doing so in the car with children present.
The new campaign, running in conjunction with a national initiative launched by Public Health England, is being promoted through posters, leaflets and stickers, and via the council’s Share A Smile Facebook page.
Visitors to the site are being asked to make a ‘pledge’ to support the campaign and take part in reducing second-hand smoking, with their name, location and photo added to a ‘pledge map’, while people can also get more information about the dangers of second-hand smoke, ask questions or share a story.
People can also order a free Smokefree kit and receive a range of resources that contain facts, tools and tips that provide help on the way to a smoke-free future.
Free help and advice, along with details of stop smoking services across East Sussex, can be found at Stop Smoking In East Sussex or by calling 0800 9178896.