To the Editor:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome involves a sudden, unexplained, unexpected death of a baby during the first year of life, and it’s the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy infants.
A growing body of evidence implicates tobacco use in many of those deaths — and researchers are now beginning to understand more precisely how exposure to secondhand smoke affects developing babies. Chemicals in secondhand smoke appear to affect the brain in ways that can interfere with an infants’ breathing.
Infants who die from SIDS have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs and higher levels of cotinine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) than infants who die from other causes.
It’s long been known that many of the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can cross the placenta and concentrate in the body of a developing baby.
One recent study found that infants born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy showed poor motor skills development and were less able to regulate their physiological, sensory and attention responses than infants that were not exposed to tobacco.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, not smoking during pregnancy and not smoking in the home or around a baby help substantially in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death.
“Obviously, all parents want healthy babies — that’s why it’s so heartbreaking to see expectant mothers who smoke or adults who use tobacco around infants and young children,” says Oklahoma County Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition coordinator Paola Klein.
“We know how difficult it can be to quit tobacco use, but it’s easier with the right kind of help, and we want everyone to know that help is available, and it’s free,” Klein says.
“Reducing the risk of having an infant die suddenly should be a powerful motivator for quitting tobacco.”
Oklahomans who want to quit are encouraged to call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). For Spanish call 1-800-793-1552. The Helpline is available 24 hours a day or online at www. OKhelpline.com
Registration and support is free and a free two-week starter kit of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges is available.