A GRANDDAD and a medical expert today joined a major campaign to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Robin Cass, 62, from Hartlepool, spoke out as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced a series of hard-hitting radio and television adverts will be played across the region.
Millions of children in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke that puts them at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death. It results in over 300,000 GP visits, 9,500 hospital visits in the UK each year and costs the NHS more than £23.6 million a year.
The advertising campaign will show that smoking by a window or the backdoor is not enough to protect children. More than 80 per cent of second-hand smoke is invisible.
It contains harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons that are unknowingly damaging children across the country.
Mr Lansley said: “This is just one part of our wider strategy on tobacco. We need to do more. That is why next week we will end tobacco displays in large shops. We will also be consulting on plain packaging this spring.”
Hartlepool man Mr Cass supported the project and said: “As a child I regularly breathed in my parents’ second-hand smoke and ultimately seeing them smoke everyday encouraged me to start myself.
“Looking back, I admit I smoked in the same room as my children when they were growing up, which I now feel guilty about.
“Had I have known the damage my smoking was causing to the health of my family, I may have quit sooner and if not, could have taken it outside.”
Dr Jagnat Jani, clinical director for family health and consultant paediatrician at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Breathing in second-hand smoke is harmful to anyone but children are especially vulnerable as their lungs and bodies are still developing.
“We see the effects of this on hospital wards too often. Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to have breathing problems, get more coughs and colds and need more hospital care or doctors’ appointments.
“Research suggests that being exposed also increases the risk of that child getting lung cancer and heart disease when they are older.”