Spotlight on minors risking health living with smokers

Thursday June 25 2020

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Children at home during lockdown are exposed to secondhand smoke, a survey warns. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

ARAFAT MUGABO
By ARAFAT MUGABO
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The lockdown has left more children exposed to second-hand smoke and health experts warn of future health complications.

The 2014/15 Rwanda Demographic Survey showed the prevalence of tobacco use among Rwandans at 10 per cent in men and two per cent in women.

According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organisation, third-hand smoke — the carcinogenic toxins deposited by cigarette smoke that lingers on carpets, walls and furniture but can be circulated around a building over and over again.

For smokers, and particularly smokers in an enclosed space during isolation, the health risks that smoking brings especially to children can only be exacerbated.

Children living with smokers are 60 per cent more likely to develop lung cancer and nasal cancer,  and other cardiovascular complications and could die younger as a result.

The YouGov, a UK global public opinion organization survey reveals that one in ten, or 12 per cent smokers who live with children report puffing indoors more than they did before coronavirus.

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Experts in Rwanda say the impact smoking has to an active smoker is almost the same as that a child in isolation as a passive smoker suffers.

Dr Ntaganda Evarist, Director of Cardiovascular Diseases Unit, Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said passive smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease between 25 and 40 per cent, almost the same level as a smoker.

He added that second-hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, with 69 cancer-causing chemicals. There is no known safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

"Second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems in children, raising the risks of more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections, and even meningitis and sudden infant death," Dr Ntaganda said.

Among adults, exposure significantly increases the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

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