Infants cared for by parents who smoke are more likely to become obese children than those from a nonsmoking household, according to a health ministry report.
According to the report, released Wednesday, the obesity rate for 13-year-olds who were exposed to secondhand smoke when they were 6 months old was 2 to 3 points higher than those from smoke-free homes.
The ministry said there was a “statistically significant difference” in the obesity rate between the two groups. But a causal relationship between passive smoking and larger waistlines remains difficult to confirm, as other factors the ministry didn’t eliminate when analyzing the data could be at play, the report said.
The assessment was made using data from a long-term ministry study on children born in 2001 to track their development.
The report also includes assessments such as relationships between eating habits and bad teeth and the psychological burden on parents whose children have health issues.
So far, the ministry has collected health-related data from 25,000 to 33,000 children every year, tracking them until they reach 13 years old.
According to the assessment, at age 13 roughly 11 percent of boys who were exposed to secondhand smoke when they were infants were obese, compared to 8 percent of their peers whose parents did not smoke.
For 13-year-old girls, the obesity rate stood at around 7 percent for those with smoking parents, 2 points higher than those with nonsmoking parents, the study showed.
A statistically significant difference remained even after the ministry re-assessed the data to eliminate influences from other possible factors leading to obesity, such as a mother’s habit of snacking or having late dinners, the report said.
A separate ministry survey conducted on 5,432 households in 2014 showed that low-income families had a higher percentage of smoking, obesity and unbalanced diets than high-income households.
In fiscal 2013, a total of 41.5 percent of fathers and 8.1 percent of mothers of small children were smokers, according to the ministry. The government aims to halve the figures by fiscal 2024.
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