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Cigarette Smoke Linked to Infant Deaths

Exposure to secondhand smoke is strongly implicated in SIDS, scientists find.


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By Fionna Agomuoh


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Secondhand smoke can be fatal for newborns, according to a University of Sydney study that found exposure to cigarette smoke significantly increases probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Of the 67 babies that died of SIDS in the study's research group, an overwhelming 81% of them had been exposed to cigarette smoke. "We found any smoke exposure in the home resulted in a greater number of cells dying in the brain stem which controls heart rate, respiration and sleep and arousal," says researcher Dr. Rita Machaalani. According to the study, not only do babies living in a home with a smoker have a three-fold risk for SIDS, but babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are five times more likely to die of the condition. "I don't know how tobacco companies sleep straight in bed," says Ros Richardson, from the organization SIDS and Kids. "The most outstanding risk factor is tobacco smoke and it's one of the hardest ones to shake."

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