Children have a right to a smoke-free home, majority says

According to the Health Ministry, tobacco smoke is particularly harmful to children because they inhale more often than adults and toxins build up quicker in their smaller bodies

The majority of Danes believe that children have a right to grow up in a home where they won’t be exposed to tobacco smoke, according to a new TNS Gallup survey instigated by the Health Ministry, the health authority board Sundhedsstyrelsen and the cancer-fighting association Kræftens Bekæmpelse, among others.

Widely independent of income, age, employment, area of residence and education level, 56 percent of participants in the survey said that children should have a right to grow up in a smoke-free environment. Health authorities were pleased with the results.

“It’s a pleasant message, because it shows that we’re moving in the right direction when it comes to protecting children against tobacco smoke that damages their health,” Jørgen Falk, a Sundhedsstyrelsen spokesperson, told DR Nyheder.

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Smoking division eroding
Parents of children under the age of ten were particularly in favour of children's right to a smoke-free home, with 60 percent support. Even 33 percent of smokers concurred.

Falk argued that the revelation was important because children are not in a position to pick and choose who they live with.

“A great number of smokers agree that children should not be exposed to smoke and that number continues to rise,” Falk said. 

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Children particularly at risk
According to Sundhedsstyrelsen, the ramifications of tobacco smoke are especially grave for children.

"Newborn children inhale 40-60 times a minute and one-year-olds 30 times a minute, while adults do it just 15 times a minute. So children take in a greater dose of smoke toxins than adults do," Sundhedsstyrelsen wrote in a press release. "Furthermore, the toxins are distributed within a smaller body and when the toxins add up in the child’s body, it can reach levels comparable to what an adult active smoker would inhale."

That statement is backed up by a Global Burden of Disease study from 2010 which showed that tobacco smoke is the primary risk factor for illness in children under the age of five in Denmark. The study also indicated that nine percent of Danish children under 18 are exposed to tobacco smoke in their homes on a daily or weekly basis, though those figures are likely underestimated.

“There is a tendency to understate figures when accounting for something that is socially taboo,” Falk said. “And smoking in front of children is becoming socially unacceptable.”