Despite the decreasing prevalence of smoking in developed world, those most likely to smoke are in their 20-40s, the period that corresponds to parenthood. Several cross sectional studies in children have shown that exposure to passive smoke affects vascular health, including impaired endothelial function, arterial stiffness, and greater intima-media thickness.
In a new prospective study which pulled together data from 2 previous studies undertaken in Finland and Australia, Gall and colleagues studied the effect of exposure to parental smoking on vascular health in a large group of children. The authors found that intima-media thickness of the carotid artery, which is an important and sensitive marker of arterial health, was higher in young adults who were exposed to parental smoke in childhood. The vascular age of the carotid arteries of young adults who had been exposed to parental smoking from both parents was 3.3 years greater than that of young adults who had not been exposed to parental smoke. These findings were independent of other important confounders, like subject smoking status, age and gender.
These results highlight how important it is to prevent smoke exposure in children to reduce the future burden of cardiovascular disease.