Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Boys who start smoking before age 11–very young smokers–are far more likely to have sons who battle weight and obesity issues, according to a new British study. The finding puts emphasis on a growing body of research supporting the idea that childhood habits can affect the health of offspring years down the line. More from Reuters:
The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the 90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.
“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on Wednesday.
Smoking rates in Britain and some other parts of Europe are on the decline, but worldwide, almost one billion men smoke – about 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent in developing ones, according to the World Health Organization.
While previous studies in animals and in people have found some transgenerational health impacts, the evidence so far is limited. It points, however, to epigenetics – a process where lifestyle and environmental factors can turn certain genes on or off – having an effect on the health of descendants.
Pembrey said his team’s research was prompted in part by signals from earlier Swedish studies that linked how plentiful a paternal ancestor’s food supply was in mid childhood with future death rates in grandchildren.
For the new study, published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers had access to detailed lifestyle, genetic and other health data from 9,886 fathers.
Of these, 5,376, or 54 percent, were smokers at some time and of those, 166, or 3 percent, said they had started smoking regularly before the age of 11.
Looking at the next generation, the team found that at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of men who started smoking before 11 had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) scores compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked.
“These boys had markedly higher levels of fat mass – ranging from an extra five kilograms (kg) to 10kg between ages 13 and 17,” the study said.
Although it was there, the effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters.
Image: Young man smoking, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Being around people who smoke is dangerous for children diagnosed with asthma, but many times parents are hesitant to reveal to doctors the extent of their kids’ exposure to cigarette smoke. A new saliva-based test conducted on children admitted to the hospital for asthma-related issues confirms researchers’ suspicions–nearly 80 percent of the children’s saliva showed traces of cigarette smoke, but only a third of the parents had reported known cigarette exposure. More from Reuters:
What’s more, finding evidence of nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, in children’s saliva was a better predictor of whether they would need to come back to the hospital, compared to the information parents gave to doctors.
“We think saliva is a good and potentially useful test for assessing an important trigger for asthma,” Dr. Robert Kahn, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.
Previous research has found that being exposed to tobacco can lead to airway problems and poor asthma control among children, Kahn and his colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.
By figuring out which children are being exposed to tobacco, doctors may be able to step in and identify and possibly eliminate the exposure, said Kahn, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
For example, if a parent is still smoking cigarettes and exposing the child to smoke, doctors can offer the parent smoking cessation tools while the child is hospitalized.
For the new study, the researchers assessed data from 619 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma or other breathing problems between August 2010 and October 2011. The children were between one and 16 years old.
Image: Asthmatic child, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
The number of teenagers who say they have tried smoking cigarettes has stabilized over the past year, but those who says they have tried nicotine by using electronic cigarettes–a habit known as “vaping”–has doubled in that same period of time, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also revealed that an increasing number of teens are smoking flavored tobacco at hookah lounges, or smoking cigars–all before they are legally allowed to use tobacco products at age 18. More from Boston.com:
This bad news, reported Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, puts even more pressure on the government to strictly regulate e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco as stringently as they regulate cigarettes….
….Unfortunately, e-cigarettes are cheaper, easier to access, and marketed more heavily to young people than traditional cigarettes, which fuels the teen vaping trend according to the CDC’s senior scientific adviser Brian King.
New rules are expected to be issued within the next few months by the US Food and Drug Administration, but no one knows how tough they will be.
About 90 percent of adult smokers become addicted to tobacco by the time they finish high school, so public health experts believe efforts to keep teens from lighting up could be the ultimate solution to solving the nation’s smoking problem once and for all.
The CDC report was based on a 2012 survey of nearly 25,000 middle and high school students in the United States and found that e-cigarette use increased among middle school students from 0.6 percent in 2011 to 1.1 percent in 2012. The percentage of high school students smoking e-cigarettes increased in one year from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent, and those smoking hookahs increased to 5.4 percent from 4.1 percent.
“These percentages may seen low, but they account for nearly 2 million students,” King said, many of whom mistakenly believe that e-cigarettes are harmless and that hookah use is safer than cigarettes. King stressed that the tobacco burned and inhaled from hookahs may deliver even more harmful carcinogens, and e-cigarettes are like the “wild, wild west” with no one knowing exactly what they contain.
Image: Electronic cigarettes, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
“Little cigars” that resemble cigarettes and boast flavors like candy apple or chocolate are increasing in popularity among teenagers, many of whom might be deceived into thinking they are safer or less addictive than cigarettes, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Little cigar use is so popular, some forty percent of US middle schoolers say they have tried them, and they are boosting the overall rate of teens who smoke, alarming medical experts and public health officials alike. More from NBC News
Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the new data “disturbing.”
“Flavored little cigars are basically a deception,” Frieden says. “They’re marketed like cigarettes, they look like cigarettes, but they’re not taxed or regulated like cigarettes. And they’re increasing the number of kids who smoke.”
A little cigar looks almost exactly like a cigarette: It’s the same size and shape, but instead of being wrapped in white paper, it’s wrapped in brown paper that contains some tobacco leaf. Many little cigars have a filter, like a cigarette, according to the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent teen smoking.
“What makes a cigar a cigar is that it has some tobacco in the paper. Little cigars — there’s just enough tobacco in that paper to make them cigars,” says Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association. “They really are cigarettes in cigar clothing.”
Not that cigars are healthy. Little cigars – and large cigars and cigarillos (a longer, slimmer version of the classic large cigar) – contain the same harmful and addictive compounds as cigarettes. They can cause lung, oral, laryngeal and esophageal cancers and they increase the smoker’s risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The only upside of a cigar is the way they are usually smoked: Cigar smokers tend to take shallower puffs instead of deep inhales. But some research has shown people tend to smoke little cigars just like they’d smoke cigarettes, by inhaling deeply, which can exacerbate the tobacco’s health risks.
But because little cigars are technically not cigarettes, they are taxed far less than cigarettes, making them that much more appealing to teenagers, because “kids are especially price-sensitive,” Sward says. A pack of little cigars can cost less than half as much as a pack of cigarettes, experts say.
Image: Little cigars and cigarettes, via American Legacy Foundation
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