A STAGGERING 250 children a year in Hartlepool are treated for the effects of passive smoking, shocking new figures reveal.
Youngsters needed doctors or hospital visits for ear and chest conditions after breathing in second-hand cigarette smoke from parents who light up.
And health bosses say children can suffer asthma attacks and babies can contract serious conditions like pneumonia and bronchiolitis if they continue to breathe in smoke.
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Medics even believe there could also be a link between cot death and parents and family members who smoke around babies.
It is estimated that 24.7 per cent of people in the town smoke, rising up to 31.2 per cent among people in routine and manual jobs.
Anti-smoking campaign group Fresh used a research model to estimate that 250 children in Hartlepool need medical attention after breathing in second-hand smoke a year and town hospital experts backed up the figure.
Dr Jagat Jani, paediatric consultant and clinical director at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “With children, particularly aged under 18 months, if they are exposed to passive smoking they are more likely to have chest infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis. There is a definite link confirmed by various research and we do see that here.
“Children with asthma are having more frequent attacks that are more severe than children that are less exposed to smoke. Children are four times more likely to get asthma if both their parents are smokers.
“And more seriously there is more risk of sudden infant death syndrome if both parents are smokers.”
Dr Jani said he sees more women being smokers than men and when pregnant women smoke it causes their babies to be smaller as it affects their growth.
He said it also causes babies to be born premature and smoking can also cause miscarriages.
It has been estimated that 22.6 per cent of women smoke at the time of the birth, slightly above the North-East average of 21.1 per cent, but almost double the national average of 13.5 per cent.
Dr Jani added: “Families should quit the habit or smoke outside the house and not just in another room where the child isn’t there.
“Children should not be exposed to passive smoking and it is all preventable. Children should be protected from before they are born.”