Seventy per cent of parents are not aware of the extent of the cot death risk posed by smoking in the home.
A poll(1), conducted for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) during the first two weeks of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, found that 70 percent of parents of young children (aged 0-3) either significantly underestimated or did not know how much more likely cot death was if a baby is exposed to tobacco smoke for one hour every day.
A baby who regularly spends one hour a day in a smoky environment is twice as likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – or cot death – as a baby who lives in a smoke-free home.(2)
Forty-seven per cent of parents polled, however, thought that there was either no risk or a much lower risk than is in fact the case, while 23 percent couldn’t estimate the risk from the options given.
The poll also found that a greater proportion of families on lower incomes than higher incomes (76 percent as opposed to 56 percent) were unaware of the extent of the risk. A greater proportion of parents in the North of England (75 percent) and the Midlands (74 percent) than parents in the South (65 percent) and in London (60 percent) were unaware of the extent of the risk.
FSID-funded cot death researcher Professor Peter Fleming of Bristol University says:
“We all know about the danger that secondhand smoke poses to the public and yet we expose children to cigarette smoke in the home. Parents need to be aware of the threat that smoke poses to their children and protect them by enforcing their own smoke-free zones at home.”
Joyce Epstein, FSID’s director, says: “Even if parents do smoke, they can have a really positive effect on reducing the risk of cot death by making their home a smoke-free zone and always going outside to smoke. And smokers should never share a bed with their baby, even if they don’t smoke in bed.”
Nearly every day in the UK a family suffers the tragedy of a cot death. It remains the leading cause of death for babies over one month old, but about 30 per cent of these deaths could be avoided if parents didn’t smoke around their children. As the smoking ban comes into force, there is the risk that people will smoke more at home, exposing more infants to secondhand cigarette smoke and increasing the risk of cot death.
Smoking in pregnancy is also dangerous. A woman who smokes 1-9 cigarettes a day during pregnancy is more than 4 times as likely to have a baby die as a cot death than a woman who didn’t smoke at all during pregnancy.
Women who did smoke when they were pregnant should try not to expose their babies to smoke after birth as this can help reduce the risk of cot death.
(1) The research was conducted via a face-to-face omnibus from 28 June-13 July 2007 by Ipsos MORI’s Global Omnibus Services division. A nationally representative sample of 449 parents of children aged 0-3 in Great Britain were interviewed (with the data subsequently weighted to the known profile of this population). 37% of households had one or more smoker. 47% of respondents underestimated the cot death risk if a baby spent one hour every day in a room where people smoked, including 6% who thought there would be no effect on the chances of cot death, 17% who thought the chances would increase by one-tenth, and 24% who thought the chances would increase by half. 23% didn’t know how the chances would be affected. 30% accurately stated that the chance of a cot death would double.
(2) The UK’s largest ever cot death study (Fleming, P et al (2000), Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy – the CESDI/SUDI Studies, The Stationery Office, London) found that the more hours babies were exposed to tobacco smoke each day the greater the risk of cot death. Babies who were exposed to 1-2 hours of smoke a day, were 2.43 times more likely to die than those who had no exposure to tobacco smoke. The risk was 3.84 times greater if the baby was exposed for 3-5 hours a day, rising to 5.89 times the risk for 6-8 hours of daily exposure and to 8.3 times the risk after 8 hours or more of regular tobacco smoke exposure. The risk of death also rose with the number of smokers in the household. A family with one smoker had nearly 5 times the risk of a cot death of a non-smoking household, while there was 11 times the risk if two people smoked and 16 times the risk if three or more people smoked.
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths is the UK’s leading baby charity working to prevent sudden infant deaths and promote infant health.
FSID funds research (nearly £10 million to date); supports bereaved families; promotes baby care advice; and works to improve investigations when a baby dies.
The UK’s cot death rate has fallen by 75% since the campaign to reduce the risk of cot death was launched in 1991, and we estimate that 25,000 babies’ lives have been saved. Cot death is still the biggest killer of babies over one month old in the UK today, claiming around 300 infants’ lives every year – that’s more than road traffic accidents, leukemia, and meningitis put together.
Source: Medical News Today