Children are being admitted to hospital with the effects of other people’s smoking.
Adults in areas including Hartlepool are putting youngsters at risk of anything from severe asthma to meningitis or even sudden death.
Cases of youngsters needing doctors’ appointments and hospital care are being seen “too often”, according to Dr Anil Tuladhar, consultant paediatrician at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
He said: “Breathing in secondhand smoke is harmful to people from all age groups, but children are especially vulnerable as their lungs are still developing and they breathe faster than adults, so inhale more of the harmful poisons. There is no safe level of exposure.
“We see the effects of this on hospital wards too often. Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to have problems with asthma attacks and chest infections, and need more hospital care and doctors’ appointments.
“Most parents take this seriously when they realise that their smoking may be making their child unwell and want to do something positive about it.”
We see the effects of this on hospital wards too often. Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to have problems with asthma attacks and chest infections, and need more hospital care and doctors’ appointmentsDr Anil Tuladhar
His warning came on the day new figures were released which showed at least 1 in 10 North East children were still being exposed to toxic secondhand smoke in the home.
The hard hitting new campaign by Fresh, supported by the British Lung Foundation, is called Secondhand Smoke is Poison campaign.
It warns that smoking in the home exposes not just smokers but children and adults to harmful levels of toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide, benzene and cyanide, which creep from room to room and can linger for up to five hours.
Research shows that 85% of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless.
But many people are not aware that steps like opening a window, smoking by the back door or smoking in another room does little to protect children and other non-smoking adults.
Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, raising the risks of more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and even meningitis and sudden infant death.
Children are more vulnerable because they breathe faster than adults so inhale more of the poisons.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “When someone lights a cigarette they are setting fire to a cocktail of chemicals and industrial pollutants. These not only go into the lungs and around the body, but into the air as secondhand smoke.
“Every parent wants to protect their children. However, many smokers think they’re already doing enough by opening a window or smoking the back door, without realising how poisonous secondhand smoke spreads around the house and lingers long after you can see it or smell it.
“Smokers we have talked to felt this was important information that people needed to know, even if these facts are shocking. This isn’t about a person’s choice to smoke, but being clear that if they aren’t thinking about quitting, then taking it right outside is the best way to ensure they don’t put their family’s health at risk.”
The campaign website smokefreefamilies.co.uk gives people the facts.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “Increasing awareness of these dangers through vital educational campaigns, like this one, is the key to helping people protect their families’ health.”