Whilst statistics on the numbers of parents who smoke are difficult to tease out, what is clear is that there are significant numbers of people of childbearing age who are smokers. Figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that, for women, ‘the highest rates of smoking have been in the 20-24 age-group since 1986 (29% in 2010), followed by the 25-34 age-group (25% in 2010)’. It is likely that these women did not consider the addictive nature of smoking or the effect of smoking on their yet unborn children when they began to smoke. However, at least half of them almost certainly grew up in a household where a parent or family member smoked. Cancer Research UK also looked at the socio economic, ethnic composition and geographic location of smokers and, in individual categories, there are fewer women smokers than men. On the surface this appears positive as, in general, women spend more time with children than men. However when the groups were conflated, giving a figure for the general population, there was very little difference between the percentage of men and women who smoked.
These statistics matter when the consequences for children who live with a smoker are considered. It is worth reiterating some of the effects of passive smoking on children.
- Cot deaths are twice as likely in babies whose mothers smoke
- breathing difficulties, such as bronchitis and pneumonia are exacerbated by smoking
- asthma attacks can be triggered by parental smoking
These and other harmful health effects such as meningitis, coughs, colds or middle ear disease are NHS generated warnings on the possible consequences of passive smoking for children. For many years, the NHS has used a variety of campaigns to get people to stop smoking; the results have been mixed. In 2009, a BBC report examined the number of people overall who stopped smoking in that year and found that the numbers dropped from the previous year. The report went on to say that the ‘number of pregnant women who successfully stopped smoking also dropped, falling 12% ‘, from the 2008 figure.
Despite the difficulties of giving up, significant numbers of people do stop smoking every year and parents have a great incentive to conquer the habit. Research also suggests that two out of every three people who smoke would like to stop. What then prevents them from giving up? One reason is that when smokers attempt to give up without help, failure leaves them feeling inadequate and helpless in the face of their habit. Understanding what a habit is could help towards finding a way of defeating it. A habit is a routine behaviour that we do without thinking; it is a learned behaviour. The repetition of any behaviour hard wires it into our psyche so over time it becomes ‘natural’. For those who want to stop smoking, hypnotherapy with the therapy lounge, uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), has demonstrable success. Patient.co.uk state that ‘As a rule, the more specific the problem, the more likely CBT may help.’ Smoking certainly falls into this category and accessible to all. The Therapy Lounge are in London, but there are similar centres in all major UK cities.
Giving up is about finding a mechanism that works to change a pattern which has become ingrained. Parents who give up smoking immediately halt the damage they are doing to their children’s health and, furthermore, half the chance that their children will smoke.
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