WASHINGTON: Just an hour of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke in a week can significantly affect the health of teens, causing shortness of breath and making it hard for them to exercise, a study has found. The study used data from a 2014-15 survey that looks at tobacco use and related health issues among US people 12 years old and above. A total of 7,389 nonsmoking teens without asthma were included in the study.

Researchers from University of Cincinnati in the US found that teens exposed to tobacco smoke were at higher risk of having respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath and a dry cough at night. They also found that smoke-exposed teens were more likely to seek treatment at an urgent care or hospital emergency department.

“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure,” said Ashley Merianos, lead author of the study published in the journal Pediatrics. “Even a small amount of exposure can lead to more emergency department visits and health problems for teens. That includes not just respiratory symptoms, but lower overall health,” said Merianos, an assistant professor at University of Cincinnati.

The study also found that adolescents exposed to tobacco smoke were more likely to find it hard to exercise, including wheezing during and after exercise. They were also found to be more likely to report that they frequently missed school due to illness than unexposed teens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics considers tobacco use a pediatric disease due to the negative health effects associated with secondhand smoke exposure. Despite significant progress in tobacco control, over 35 per cent of US non-smoking adolescents without asthma were exposed to tobacco smoke for an hour or more within the prior seven days, according to the study.

Teens exposed to just one hour of secondhand smoke per week are: 1.5 times more likely to find it harder to exercise; two times more likely to experience wheezing during or after exercise; two times more likely to have a dry cough at night; and 1.5 times more likely to miss school due to illness.

Merianos concluded that more must be done to curb adolescent exposure to secondhand smoke. “Healthcare providers or other health professionals can offer counseling to parents and other family members who smoke to help them quit smoking, and parents should be counseled on how to prevent and reduce their adolescent’s secondhand smoke exposure,” Merianos said. “Also, health professionals should educate teens on the dangers associated with tobacco use to prevent initiation,” she said. PTI