How Secondhand Smoke Can Affect Student Learning

Plenty of health-focused organizations have been urging people to quit smoking for years, citing the dangers that smoking can pose to a person's lungs and overall health. But a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics tells of a new danger related to cigarettes: secondhand smoke may affect a child's ability to learn.

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By Jessica Lyons

cigarette

The Report

In July of 2011, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published the report 'Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Neurobehavioral Disorders Among Children in the United States.' The report surveyed a group of 55,538 children aged newborn to 11 years old. Of those children, it found that about six percent were living in homes where they were exposed to secondhand smoke.

Learning disabilities were present in 8.2% of those children, while 5.9% were found to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The amount who had either behavior or conduct disorders was 3.6%. Additionally, the study found that children were 51% more likely to have at least one neurobehavioral disorder in homes with secondhand smoke and 50% more likely to have two or more of these disorders.

The report authors concluded, 'A total of 4.8 million U.S. children younger than 12 years are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, and 3%-8% suffer from one or more neurobehavioral disorders costing billions to the state health exchequer. In absolute terms, 274,100 excess cases of these disorders could have been prevented had children not been exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes.'

Other Evidence

This isn't the first time information has been presented to show a link between student performance and being exposed secondhand smoke. For example, in September of 2007, ScienceDaily reported on a study that found a link between test failure and being around secondhand smoke at home. According to the study, these students were 30% less likely to pass standardized tests.

Some hospitals have also been trying to get the word out about these potential dangers. The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York notes that secondhand smoke exposure could hurt children's ability to learn and, in particular, could cause difficulties with math and reading. The health system also points out that children suffering health problems related to their secondhand smoke exposure could be forced to miss school because of being sick, which could also hurt their studies.

What Families Can Do

Although there are laws in place to prevent smoking in indoor public places, when it comes to the home it's up to the family members to take the initiative to quit smoking to help their children. Smokers who want to quit but don't know where to start could look for help locally or contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers free resources and referrals to help people stop smoking.

Get information on coping with learning disabilities.

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