At least 6,200 children die each year in the United States because of their parents’ smoking, killed by such things as lung infections and burns, a study says.
“More young children are killed by parental smoking than by all unintentional injuries combined,” the researchers said in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
In addition, some 5.4 million other youngsters each year survive ailments such as ear infections and asthma that are triggered by their parents’ smoking, and these problems cost $4.6 billion annually to treat, the researchers from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison estimated.
The study looked at reports from 1980 to 1996 involving children up to 18, existing research about the risks associated with parental smoking and the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.
The researchers said 2,800 of the deaths are due to low birthweight caused by mothers who smoke while pregnant. Low birthweight babies are frail and vulnerable to many ills, including respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain and blood infections.
About 2,000 of the deaths are attributed to sudden infant death syndrome caused by secondhand tobacco smoke. An additional 1,100 are due to respiratory infection. A related study in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry found women who smoke while pregnant are more likely to give birth to boys with what psychiatrists call “conduct disorder,” which is marked by lying, fire-setting, and cruelty.