Children deserve to live tobacco-free lives. A new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises pediatricians and families to work together to make this happen. A life free of tobacco means smoke-free homes and apartment buildings, cars, schools, restaurants, parks, beaches, sidewalks and sporting events - everywhere children live, study and play. It means freedom from the harmful effects of tobacco use on family health, income and safety.

The policy statement, "Tobacco Use: A Pediatric Disease," and two accompanying technical reports released Monday, Oct. 19, at the National Conference and Exhibition of the AAP, lay out the AAP's recommendations for tobacco- and smoke-free environments for children, guidelines for treatment of tobacco use and dependence, implementation and enforcement of tobacco-control measures, and support for training and research in pediatric tobacco control.

There is no safe way to use tobacco and no safe level or duration of exposure to secondhand smoke, said David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Note to media: Dr. Tayloe's term as AAP president ends Monday, Oct. 19, when he becomes immediate past president.)

"Children's environments should be tobacco- and smoke-free, even when children are not present," Tayloe said. "The AAP supports and advocates for laws that protect children from tobacco smoke everywhere they learn, live and play."

The lead authors of the reports will present the recommendations in a news briefing at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in Press Briefing Room 157 of the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Media attending the news briefing should first register in the Press Office in the West Registration area.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the United States, causing more than 443,000 deaths each year. Tobacco use is greatest among adults who live below the poverty line and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately affects children living in low-income households. Tobacco use is passed on to the next generation through children: an estimated 3,000 U.S. children start using tobacco every day. If current patterns of tobacco use continue, an estimated 6.4 million of today's children will die prematurely from a disease related to tobacco use.

"Tobacco use is deadly, and the affects of secondhand smoke exposure of children are severe," said Dana Best, MD, MPH, FAAP, a former member of the AAP Committee on Environmental Health and co-author of the tobacco policy statement. "Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma, permanent harm to their lungs, and other significant health effects. Infants born to mothers who smoked or exposed to secondhand smoke during the prenatal period have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome and many other harms. It's important that families make their homes and cars completely smoke- and tobacco-free."

Parents should ask about the tobacco use policies at their children's schools and child care centers. There should be no tobacco use on the premises, whether or not children are present. If parents use tobacco, they can talk to their child's pediatrician about how to quit - and even get help with quitting and accessing cessation therapies, services and resources. "Parents and children should know that it is not safe to 'experiment' with tobacco," said Tammy Sims, MD, MS, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Substance Abuse and co-author of the tobacco policy statement. "Nicotine is so highly addictive that dependence can begin immediately, even occasional use of tobacco is harmful."

The AAP's work to eliminate children's exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke is spearheaded at the AAP Julius B. Richmond Center, which was established in 2006. The AAP recommends bans on tobacco advertising in all media, and restrictions on the depiction of tobacco in movies and television. In addition to laws banning the sale of tobacco products to children, the AAP calls for bans on candy cigarettes, cigars, and other products that imitate smoking or tobacco use. E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) should also be banned. The sale of tobacco products on the same premises as pharmacies should be eliminated, including pharmacies located in supermarkets.

American Academy of Pediatrics