Carried out by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, the study looked at data gathered from 7,389 non-smoking teens without asthma over the age of 12.
After reporting on their tobacco use and exposure and related health issues, the researchers found that teens who reported being exposed to just one hour of secondhand smoke per week were 1.5 times more likely to find it harder to exercise, two times more likely to experience wheezing during or after exercise, two times more likely to have a dry cough at night, and 1.5 times more likely to miss school due to illness, when compared to teens who were not exposed.
Adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke were also less likely to report very good or excellent overall health and physical health, and more likely to seek treatment at an urgent care or hospital emergency department.
Those who lived with a smoker and were exposed to smoke at home also more likely to report wheezing or whistling in the chest, and wheezing that disturbed sleep.
“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure,” said lead author Ashley Merianos. “Even a small amount of exposure can lead to more emergency department visits and health problems for teens. That includes not just respiratory symptoms, but lower overall health.”
Merianos concluded that more needs to be done to reduce teenagers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, adding that healthcare practitioners and parents can all play a role.
“Healthcare providers or other health professionals can offer counseling to parents and other family members who smoke to help them quit smoking, and parents should be counseled on how to prevent and reduce their adolescent’s secondhand smoke exposure,” she noted. “Also, health professionals should educate teens on the dangers associated with tobacco use to prevent initiation.”
Previous research has also highlighted the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke, with a 2016 study finding that children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to show increased levels of body fat, and decreased levels of cognitive ability, which could mean poorer school grades.
US research also published this month found that exposing children to secondhand smoke can increase their risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) death in adulthood, with adults exposed to secondhand smoke also showing a higher risk of death from several other conditions.
The findings can be found published online in the journal Pediatrics.