More children are admitted to hospital EDs because of secondhand smoke – be it from marijuana or tobacco

A combination of secondhand marijuana and tobacco smoke inhalation has been attributed to the increase in the number of children admitted to hospital emergency departments (ED) suffering from respiratory conditions.

Dubbed SHMS – secondhand marijuana smoke – the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) could not say for sure that the same problems existed in children exposed to only one type of secondhand smoke inhalation – be it marijuana or tobacco.

Presenting the findings of the first study of its kind, PAS says that the research was undertaken to establish an association between SHMS and the number of ED visits for children suffering from asthma, otitis media episodes and other respiratory infections.

Colorado caregivers undertook the survey

A total of 1,500 child caregivers in Colorado completed the survey and information collected from them included:

  • Their use of marijuana only – 4.1%
  • Their use of tobacco only – 14.2%
  • A combination of their use of both marijuana and tobacco – 5%
  • And a control group that used neither marijuana nor tobacco – 76.6%

Information gleaned from the survey indicated a significantly higher number of ED visits by children in the marijuana and tobacco group. Children in that category also suffered a higher rate of otitis media episodes, although no record was made for any other tobacco-related conditions. Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle-ear. Although not painful, it has been associated with loss of hearing.

The objective of the study was to examine any possible correlation between SHMS and any increases in the number of visits by children to EDs suffering from otitis media or chest infections.

Babies had traces of marijuana in their urine

Another study concentrated on a lower respiratory infection known as bronchiolitis in babies from one-month-old to toddlers of two years. Traces of urine were found among the group of 43 babies and toddlers who were admitted to hospital – 16 percent of the children had been exposed to SHMS but researchers pointed out that the children had also in more likelihood been exposed to tobacco smoke. Apart from ear infections, secondhand smoke inhalation is also the cause of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and other related respiratory problems. The study also found that secondhand smoke was the cause of children absorbing harmful chemicals into their systems.

There is no such thing as “safe” smoke

A clinical professor of paediatrics, Dr Seth Ammerman, says people are misled into believing that marijuana smoke is not harmful because it is regarded as a “safe” product. His opinion is shared by a pulmonologist, Dr David Beuther, who agrees that it is wrong to perceive SHMS as “safer” than secondhand cigarette smoke. Apart from respiratory conditions, Beuther says secondhand smoke increases the risks of heart diseases and strokes.


Research has uncovered the fact that secondhand smoke inhalation is bad for everyone but puts children at particular risk.

Medical practitioners believe that there is no such thing as “good” or “safe” smoke because anything that smoulders and burns release toxic chemicals. Just because marijuana is labeled as “safe” doesn’t make its smoke any less potent than tobacco.

However, despite traces of urine discovered in children exposed to marijuana smoke, no definitive proof has been established that secondhand marijuana smoke is less or more dangerous than tobacco smoke. In fact, it was research into the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke on the respiratory conditions of children that uncovered traces of marijuana in their urine. This finding was ascribed to our changing culture – a culture in which marijuana is becoming a socially acceptable norm as legalization sweeps across America.

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