Doctor advocates discussing dangers of smoking and offering resources to quit


Dr. Jonathon Winickoff urged clinical staff at the Akron Children’s Hospital on Wednesday to provide their patients who want to quit smoking with access to appropriate resources.

Every patient should be asked about their smoking habits, be informed of the risks and offered nicotine patches, gum or lozenges and other forms of assistance if they want it — especially when that person is pregnant or has children, he said.

Most people know about the effects of first- or second-hand smoke, so Dr. Winickoff, a pediatrician with Massachusetts General Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, talked mostly about third-hand smoke, or nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke.

Those chemicals can be re-emitted in the air and create toxic pollutants that linger after someone smokes, he said.

Children who live in homes with smokers are more at risk to get cancer and other diseases and develop disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, even if the family member smokes away from the child, Dr. Winickoff said. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of death and disease in the United States.

“We need a totally smoke-free environment for children to be healthy,” he said.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to third-hand smoke experience withdrawal symptoms when they go to smoke-free zones such as school, Dr. Winickoff said.

The doctor encouraged the audience to talk to their legislators and advocate for the tobacco and e-cigarette sales age limit to be increased to 21, and for smoke-free home policies.

Read MORE in Thursday's VINDICATOR.

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