Scotland politics

Campaign to cut children's smoke exposure

Lit cigarette in car with child Image copyright PA
Image caption Research shows 85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless

A new campaign aims to spare 50,000 children from exposure to harmful second-hand smoke.

The Scottish government initiative urges parents to take their smoking "right outside" homes and cars.

They say current measures being taken by parents who smoke, such as opening windows, are not enough to protect children from harmful chemicals.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said all children should get the chance to grow up in a smoke-free environment.

The Scottish government said the campaign helps people understand how smoking pollutes the air and outlines simple steps to make their homes and cars smoke-free.

Research shows 85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless, so many are unaware that smoking indoors - even at an open window or standing at the back door - is not enough to protect children, as harmful chemicals linger and drift around the home.

Health risks

The campaign aims to reduce the proportion of children exposed to second-hand smoke from 12% to 6% by 2020, which equates to 50,000 children.

It is estimated that second-hand smoke causes more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory infection and at least 20,000 new cases of wheezing and asthma in UK children every year.

Image caption Pupils from Royal Mile Primary School helped launch the campaign

It is also thought to be responsible for one in five cot deaths.

In England, the House of Lords has backed a Labour plan to ban smoking in cars carrying children.

Mr Matheson said the campaign was about educating parents on the effects of smoke rather than curtailing their choice to smoke.

He added: "We want to give every child in Scotland the chance to grow-up in a smoke-free environment.

"The reality is that many think they're already doing enough, without realising that the harmful chemicals from second-hand smoke linger, even when there is no smell and it can't be seen.

"Because children's immune systems aren't fully developed and they breathe quicker than adults, the simple fact is that smoking in the home or car puts children of all ages at risk."

Air pollution

Dr Sean Semple, of the University of Aberdeen, whose research contributed to the campaign, said: "In the past five years our research group has measured pollution levels in over 100 homes across Scotland.

"Smoking homes have very high concentrations of fine particles that tend to be much higher than the worst pollution on even the busiest roads in Scotland.

"Second-hand smoke also lingers for a long time.

"In more than a fifth of cases it took more than five hours for the second-hand smoke to clear, and during this time the harmful chemicals will move around the house."

James Cant, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: "Every parent wants to do the right thing to protect their kids.

"This campaign will give them the tools and information to do just that."

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