Smoking is more dangerous for teens than we think

A new study of American scientists shows that obesity and tobacco smoke are a dangerous cardiac combination teens, and the danger is nearly as great if the smoke arrives secondhand rather than puffed directly.

In the study, published Monday in the American Heart Association online journal Circulation, researchers found that 6 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds had metabolic syndrome and that the prevalence increased with exposure to tobacco smoke.

"This is the first study to link this syndrome, which most people associate with obesity, to secondhand smoke," Dr. Michael Weitzman of the University of Rochester in New York, who led the study, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Weitzman's team looked at data on 2,273 adolescents aged 12 to 19, and found those who were overweight and had been exposed to tobacco smoke were most likely to have the metabolic syndrome.

Only 1.2 percent of those in the study whose cotinine levels indicated no exposure to smoke had the metabolic syndrome, while 8.7 percent of those who smoked had the syndrome and 5.4 percent of those with levels indicating exposure to secondhand smoke did.

And it was worse for overweight teens. The researchers found that 23.6 percent of overweight teen smokers had metabolic syndrome.

"So being around smokers can increase the risk by fivefold, while active smoking increases the sixfold," Weitzman said. "And the effects occur at low levels of exposure."

The study “adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that secondhand smoke exposure is one of the most serious causes of disease in the United States,” said Matthew L. Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It is particularly disturbing because it demonstrates that exposure to smoke as a child could well have long-term heart disease consequences."

The message to parents is clear, Meyers said. "They should just not smoke in front of their kids," he stressed. "They should not smoke in the house at all."

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