Thursday, December 8, 2011

Funding Tobacco Cessation Protects Children

By Jason V. Terk, MD, pediatrician in Keller, TX

Dr. Terk comments on a new report that found U.S. state funding for tobacco cessation and prevention is at its lowest level in more than a decade. Texas ranks 39th.

As we pediatricians begin our annual slide into wintertime cold and flu season, we brace ourselves. The annual onslaught of respiratory viruses that affect so many of our young patients is here. Our practices are swarmed with infants and children sick with infections that frequently affect their breathing. And children who cannot breathe well also cannot drink, eat, or sleep well. This makes their illness last longer and often to become more serious.

However, probably the single worst contributor to a child’s respiratory infection is exposure to secondhand smoke. In my practice, young parents are more frequent users of tobacco and more likely to have the smallest children. Almost invariably, when I see infants coming in with respiratory viral infections who have secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, I can count on those infants being sicker for longer. They also have a higher chance of being hospitalized.

Improving funding for tobacco smoke cessation efforts means so much not only to the people who are smoking but also to the most vulnerable Texans — our children.

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