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Secondhand Smoke and ADHD

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susan_harr6 years ago

A new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at 50% higher risk of developing ADHD/ADD. The study found that neurobehavioural disorders like ADHD/ADD and other learning disabilities were higher in children exposed to secondhand smoke than in unexposed children. This analysis has heavy implications. The study, which was published in Pediatrics, states:

“If such a link were found to be causal, then secondhand smoke in the home is responsible for over quarter of a million children across the US developing ADHD and other neurobehavioural disorders.”

The Study

  • Covered 55,358 American children under the age of 12.
  • Examined data from the 2007 National Survey on Children's Health.
  • Took into account parent-reported information on secondhand smoke exposure in the home experienced by children from birth to the age of 12.
  • The analysts were particularly interested in neurobehavioral disorders (ADHD/ADD, learning disabilities, and conduct disorders).
  • Statistical methods allowed analysis of higher than expected neurobehavioral disorders and how these might be linked to exposure to secondhand smoke in the home.
  • Special tools allowed them to take into account factors like socioeconomic background and income.


  • 6% of children under 12 analyzed were exposed to secondhand smoke in the home: this equals 4.8 million across the U.S.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke at home had a 50% higher chance of having two or more childhood behavioral disorders compared with unexposed children.
  • Boys appeared to be at significantly higher risk than girls.
  • Older children, especially aged between 9 and 11, and those in the poorest households had the highest risk.
The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoke, is a mixture of two forms of smoke that come from burning tobacco: sidestream smoke (smoke that comes from the end of a lighted cigarette, pipe, or cigar) and mainstream smoke (smoke that is exhaled by a smoker). According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke causes:

  • An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are currently non-smokers.
  • About 3,400 lung cancer deaths as a result of breathing secondhand smoke
  • Other breathing problems in non-smokers, including coughing, mucus, chest discomfort, and reduced lung function.
  • Heart disease and lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke has devastating effects on anyone exposed, but children are particularly at risk.

  • Secondhand smoke increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million children who have asthma.
  • Secondhand smoke causes more than 750,000 middle ear infections in children.
  • Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke causes 50,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations annually.
  • Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are also at increased risk of having low birth- weight babies.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes breathing (respiratory) symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
Contact An Experienced Child Injury Attorney

At Thomas J. Henry, we have the experience and resources to handle your child’s case. If your child has been the victim of a serious injury, contact our offices. We are available 24/7, nights and weekends.


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