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Second-Hand Smoke Big Asthma Risk For Kids

Media Release
1 March 2004


Second-Hand Smoke Big Asthma Risk For Kids

Parents need to be reminded that second-hand smoke is a major trigger for childhood asthma, says Executive Director of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand, Jane Patterson.

“Second-hand cigarette smoke triggers an estimated 20,000 asthma attacks in New Zealand children every year. Lately the spotlight’s been on smoking in pubs and clubs, and the dangers of second-hand smoke in the home have been pushed into the background,” she says.

Ms Patterson says that second-hand smoke has negative health effects for anyone exposed to it, but that children are particularly vulnerable.

“Kids are still developing physically, they have higher breathing rates than adults and little control over their indoor environments. As a result they’re hit harder by second-hand smoke - it can trigger asthma episodes, make asthma symptoms more severe, and can even lead to new cases of asthma in children who have not had it before.”

Research by quit smoking organisation The Quit Group suggests that asthma is not the only negative health effect for children exposed to second-hand smoke.

Medical adviser to the group Dr Peter Martin says that second-hand smoke can also cause glue ear and cot death, and endorses the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s call for people to think before they light up in front of children.

“It’s not only asthma - cigarette smoke is also linked to more than 1000 cases of glue ear and 50 cot deaths in New Zealand children each year. Yet it’s simple enough to protect children from second-hand exposure – just take the smoke outside.”

Dr Martin says that second-hand smoke contains over 200 poisonous chemicals.

“Parents would think twice about smoking inside if they realised they were exposing their children to poisons like cyanide and arsenic.”


One in four New Zealand children have asthma.
Asthma is the most common cause of child hospital admissions.
One in six New Zealanders are affected by asthma.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world.
It is estimated that asthma costs New Zealand $825 million per year in direct and indirect costs.
1 in every 200 deaths is due to asthma.
It is estimated that 300 million people worldwide have asthma.
Rates of asthma and COPD are expected to rise over the next two decades.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of NZ (Inc.) is a non-governmental charitable organisation that provides education, information, advocacy and research on asthma and other respiratory conditions. All of our resources are free to download from


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