Wednesday 23 September, 2020

NCDA raises concern for youth exposed to tobacco smoke

In an effort to continue educating the public on the threat of COVID-19 to persons who smoke, drink alcohol or use narcotics, the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) is zeroing in on children who are potentially exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Smoking is one of the largest challenges to the sustainable development of countries around the world and the youth, being the future, is a crucial focal point of the NCDA's campaign this year, the organisation said in a press release this week. The national theme for World No Tobacco Day 2020 which is observed on May 31st is: "COVID is no joke, it gets worse with smoke”.

Further underscoring the month of May, recognised as Child’s Month, the NCDA is also focusing on this population in light of this year’s theme ‘Unplug Negativity, Connect Positivity…Think!’

In order to protect youth who are the future and subsequently responsible for the next age of global development, it is important to think progressively on reducing risk factors that impede positive outcomes, the NCDA said. Hence, the organisation said it is raising awareness on, not only the vulnerability of substance abusers in families and homes but also the children around them.

Michael Tucker, Executive Director of the NCDA, said “As we celebrate Child’s month and World No Tobacco Day both observed in May, the agency has become increasingly concerned about children whose parents and guardians are substance abusers. It is imperative especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, that we be mindful of the vulnerable children among us.”

The World Health Organization has recommended persons quit smoking as it makes the human body more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. Children ages three to 11 are exposed to second-hand smoke two times the rate of adults – They breathe twice as much and inhale more air per pound than adults; they breathe air closer to the ground where the contaminants of tobacco products linger and typically touch more surfaces where the residue persists. Additionally, children exposed to second-hand smoke are at a greater risk of developing respiratory problems including asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia which if conditions develop make them more susceptible to harmful viruses.

In comparison to COVID-19 which has already claimed over 200,000 lives globally, the tobacco epidemic according to the World Health Organization, has been cause for more than eight million deaths annually. Of that number, close to one million are non-smokers affected by second-hand smoke breathed in and this is predicted to grow unless anti-tobacco actions are increased. These actions must be enforced not only in public, but also observed in private spaces – the home – to reduce exposure to our children.

“Children live what they learn, so we as adults must be better examples for them. We know that many persons are experiencing high stress levels at this time and it may be more difficult to cope but we encourage persons battling with addiction as well as we’re asking those around them to go ahead and call us at the NCDA get the help you may need. Our number is 876-564-HELP (4357) and we are here to serve everyone who needs the support.," said Collette Kirlew, Director of Client Services at the NCDA.

Children of substance-abusing parents, that includes tobacco, face elevated risk of poorer academic functioning; emotional, behavioural and social problems; and an earlier onset of substance use, faster acceleration in substance use patterns and higher rates of alcohol and drug use disorders. Deficits in child functioning and parenting behaviours among substance-abusers with a close look on tobacco users may emerge in early childhood.

Observing the national and international themes for Child’s Month and World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2020 respectively, the NCDA  is calling on medical and education professionals, educational institutions, decision makers, caregivers and parents to take a closer look at the following contextual risk factors for children of substance-abusing parents:

- It is critical for medical and educational professionals to consider the wide range of possible outcomes for these children and families in order to  assess  potential negative outcomes even particularly among young children as the earlier these risk factors are identified, the earlier intervention can be applied and mitigate the negative outcomes

- The correlation between drug use and emotional deficits of parents and guardians of children such as lack of verbal engagement, level of responsiveness and communication are likely to influence similar reactions from the children. Identifying deficits earlier in childhood will benefit children and families before problems continue to develop, and will also support prevention efforts.

- Acknowledging the diversity in the level and form of risk for negative outcomes faced by children of substance abusing parents, broad generalizations about these children and their families are unwarranted. The focus needs to be on factors that may alter or explain levels of risk among these families.

- Both prenatal exposure and post-natal exposure to cigarette smoke and other drugs whether through the pregnant woman/mother or individuals around them uniquely increases risk for these children. Babies may be born with low birth weight or cases of sudden infant death syndrome should be assessed to gather information as to the impact of the substance on the child-bearing populace.

Additionally, the NCDA said it would like to urge children and individuals with concern for children who are exposed to people with problematic tobacco- and other substance use to feel unrestricted to share their need for help. The NCDA Helpline is 876-564-HELP (4357)

Greater awareness on these important issues should garner increased vigilance and action by key national stakeholders and the wider Jamaican population, the NCDA said.

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