UICC launches drive to protect children from secondhand smoke

In collaboration with the Press Association

The International Union Against Cancer (UICC) has chosen February 4th - World Cancer Day - to launch a year-long effort to highlight the importance of providing smoke-free environments for children.

The 'I love my smoke-free childhood' campaign will publicise a number of messages for parents, advising them to avoid smoking at home or in a car and become a role model for their child by not smoking.

Smoking during pregnancy is similarly discouraged, and the campaign also provides parents with a number of simple steps which they can share with children to help prevent cancer in later life.

These are: eating a balanced diet, learning about vaccines for virus-related cancers such as cervical cancer and avoiding over-exposure to the sun.

Meanwhile, parents themselves are to be instructed on the importance of keeping their children away from secondhand smoke and even places that allow smoking.

The importance of the drive is highlighted by the fact that around 700 million children regularly breathe air that contains tobacco smoke.

"Secondhand smoke is recognised by the international medical community as very dangerous to health and there is no safe level of exposure," commented Elspeth Lee, head of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, which fully supports the UICCs' global campaign for World Cancer Day.

"The implementation of smokefree workplaces across the UK has reduced childhood exposure to secondhand smoke in venues such as cafes and restaurants, but in the UK, more than five million children under 16 are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes or in cars," she continued.

"Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for children because their bodies are still developing. There is conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke exposure causes a host of respiratory illnesses including asthma and chest infections, as well as increasing the risk of cot death and glue ear.

"There is also some evidence that children exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis, and for many hours, may face over three times the risk of developing lung cancer than those who grow up in smokefree homes.

"We encourage parents, carers and other relatives to avoid smoking in enclosed spaces around children ? and to try to quit. Those that cannot quit should use nicotine replacement products, such as gum, patches or lozenges, rather than smoking around their children. Children whose parents smoke are much more likely to become adult smokers, greatly increasing their risk of cancer in later life," Ms Lee concluded.