Study profiles passive smoking risks

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Children exposed to second-hand smoke are twice as likely to develop meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Imperial College London's School of Public Health carried out a literature review of 42 studies that compared the occurrence of invasive bacterial disease and the presence of bacteria in the nose and throat in children exposed to passive smoking, with children who had no exposure.

They found that children under six- years-old who had been exposed to second-hand smoke were most at risk of meningococcal disease. However, the chance of developing meningitis or septicaemia as a result was not significant in comparison.

Lead researcher Professor Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at the School of Public Health, said that while he commended the UK in banning smoking in public places, in many parts of the world teachers are still allowed to smoke around children.

He said new regulations would be the only way to protect children at risk. However, as this would be harder to impose in the family home, he recommended an aggressive media campaign to encourage parents to stop smoking altogether.

Further information

'Association of Second-hand Smoke Exposure with Pediatric Invasive Bacterial Disease and Bacterial Carriage: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis', is published in the journal Plos Medicine, www.plosmedicine.org.

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