As Wales’ lockdown continues, health campaigners have warned that children are being exposed to dangerous levels of second-hand smoke in their homes.
The warning comes as new research from the YouGov COVID tracker shows that 12% of smokers who live with children report that they are smoking more indoors than they did before lockdown. Meanwhile people who live in households that include children are 50% more likely to report being exposed to second-hand smoke since lockdown compared to those without children.
A separate survey carried out in February-March 2020 found that in Wales 13% of people with children in their household reported that someone smokes in their home most days. There are now fears that this proportion may have increased as a result of lockdown.
Children living in the most deprived households in Wales could be most at risk, with previous research having shown that social housing tenants in Wales are twice as likely as residents in other housing tenures to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their own home.
According to the YouGov COVID tracker research, parents who smoke are just as likely as other smokers to report making quit attempts and trying to reduce the amount they smoke during lockdown. However, indications that lockdown is leading to more exposure to second-hand smoke has raised concerns that they may not be accessing the support they need to quit.
Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “We would urge smokers living in households with children to seek help to quit now or risk exposing their children to life threatening levels of second-hand smoke.
“With children confined for much of the day to their homes, they are at greater risk than ever of inhaling the toxic chemicals that could seriously harm their health.
“Unless smokers take action now to quit the habit, we could face a rise in the number of children with respiratory conditions who have been exposed to second-hand smoke in the home during lockdown, particularly among our most deprived communities.”
Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales, added:
“The risks posed to children and young people by second-hand smoke is sadly being amplified by the fact we all have to stay at home for the majority of our time due to the lockdown.
“It’s important that parents, and those living with children, use this opportunity to quit smoking. This will not only improve their health, but it will also safeguard children in their home by reducing the risk of them developing a lung condition.
“We know quitting can be tough – but there’s a wide range of services and support now available. Even if you have tried in the past, with your family support at home and the fantastic service offered by Help me Quit I am sure that you will have the best chance to kick the habit for good.”
Second-hand smoke causes life threatening health problems in infants and children, raising the risk of more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, meningitis and sudden infant death.
Among adults, exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of a stroke, coronary heart disease and lung cancer in non-smokers.
Around 85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and continues to linger in the air for up to four hours after a cigarette has been stubbed out. Smoke particles are smaller than dust particles and drift easily from room to room spreading toxic chemicals around the home.
NHS Wales’ Help Me Quit service is providing telephone support for all smokers that want to quit. Smokers can get in touch with them to receive free support by calling 0800 085 2219 or by visiting www.helpmequit.wales.