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According to the Surgeon General:
•Because their bodies are developing, infants and young children are especially vulnerable to the poisons in secondhand smoke.
•Both babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.
•Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies, which makes babies weaker and increases the risk for many health problems.
•Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems.
•Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and young children.
The children of cigarette smokers face an especially murky future, according to the University of Washington study published in the current issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
"If your parents were smokers it is a double whammy because you are more likely to use drugs in general and even more likely to smoke cigarettes," said Karl Hill, a research associate professor at the UW's Social Development Research Group and co-author of the new study. "There is something about tobacco that if parents smoke, their kids are more likely to smoke. It may be that parents who smoke might leave cigarettes around where their children can see and get to them. Parents may not leave marijuana and alcohol around in the same way."
"Children of smokers, heavy drinkers or marijuana users are more likely to have behavior problems when they are young, and consequently more likely to have drug problems themselves as they get old," said Jennifer Bailey, lead author of the study and a UW research scientist. "These children then grow up to be adult substance users, whose kids have behavior problems and the cycle is repeated."
On smoking several things happen. Firstly, there is a reduced supply of oxygen, due to the increase of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the mother's bloodstream. This means that there is less oxygen available to the baby, as the harmful substances replace it. The baby will begin to move slower after the mother has smoked a cigarette and the baby's heart will have to work faster, as it tries to breathe in more oxygen. Consequently, its breathing and movement will be altered. In other words it will suffer unnecessary stress.