Shocking findings in a new study show young children who have parents who smoke can have nicotine levels so high, they may as well be smoking themselves.
The study, by the University of Otago Christchurch analysed hair samples of hundreds of young children. The data collected eliminated the reliance on parents accurately reporting how much they smoke on a daily basis.
What they found, was irrefutable evidence that passive smoking had a huge impact on some of the 500, 15-month-old children in the study group.
Lead researcher and paediatrician Dr Philip Pattemore says: "The families who smoked, the nicotine levels in the children's hair it was significantly higher, some of them up as high as adults who smoked".
Twenty per cent of the mothers in the study smoked during pregnancy, half smoking throughout the entire pregnancy, and a third of the children were exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes.
Dr Pattemore says: "I think a lot of parents if they understood what was happening to their children as a result of the smoke wouldn't want a bar of it. I certainly hope that would be the case".
Children with high nicotine readings are twice as likely to have wheezing or asthma. That's why new mum Emma Fossey is so relieved to have quit four months into her pregnancy.
"If she did have anything like that in the future it would definitely make me feel guilty, that it was my fault, so I'm glad I stopped."
The study, funded by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation is being welcomed by Asthma and Respiratory Foundation's Dr Adrian Trenholme.
"This is an important study and it reinforces what we know about smoking if you like. It's firmer scientific evidence smoking has a big impact on respiratory illness in kids," Dr Trenholme says.
Now it's hoped this evidence will increase funding to help parents stop smoking.
Dr Pattemore says: "It's not that we're trying to judge parents about doing it, it's just that we want to help them. We desperately want to help them to help their kids stay well."