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Cotinine is a biomarker of nicotine and is present in children and adults who are exposed to second-hand smoke (Hecht et al, 2001).
Environmental smoke causes the same serious conditions as active smoking.
Cancer of the lung is by far the greatest risk that passive smokers face, as well as coronary heart disease and reduced lung function.
There is a unique risk to community-based health workers who are caring for smokers in their homes or in community contexts.
At a recent RCN congress the issue of whether patients who smoke in their homes before or during visits could harm district nurses was raised.
Coughs and colds - Colds: adults may need time off work if the child is very ill or others become infected- Coughs: a child with a bad cough can stop everyone sleeping, disrupting work and school.
Middle ear infections - ‘glue ear’ or otitis media - Pain: the child may become irritable and difficult to soothe- Poor hearing: a temporarily partially deaf child may not hear instructions and seem difficult- Longer-term hearing loss - children with poor hearing tend to develop more slowly and fall behind at school, or may have behaviour problems- Need for operation - surgery can be frightening for child and parent and disruptive to the family.
Poor people are also more likely to live in crowded accommodation and have existing disease that is exacerbated by ETS (Samet and Yang, 2001).
In many European countries there is growing public support for control of ETS, and around 80% have some form of regulation.
The resolution was put forward by the RCN’s District Nurses’ Forum, with the chair of the forum arguing that the issue was one of health and safety at work.
Delegates overwhelmingly voted not to campaign for the rights of nurses to work in a smoke-free environment - most argued that it was an infringement of the human rights of patients to try to restrict their smoking in their own homes.