A new study shows that smoking by parents is a major cause of death among infants from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and at least one researcher has suggested that persons seeking to adopt infants be questioned about their smoking habits.

Below are excerpts from two recent articles. Readers who know smokers with infants, or who are considering adoption, might wish to make copies of this information for them.

British researchers Thursday blamed parents who smoke for more than half of crib deaths and said babies should not be exposed to tobacco smoke at all.

More than 60 percent of all crib deaths, also known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), could be prevented if people stopped smoking around their babies and pregnant women, the report in the British Medical Journal said.

''The recent research makes it clear that fathers who smoke are also a problem,'' Joyce Epstein of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths told a news conference.

''If we could remove all smoking from a baby's environment, we estimate that cot deaths would fall by 61 percent,'' she said, adding the findings were in line with studies underway in the United States, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

If a mother smoked before as well as after the birth, the risk rose, and the more a baby was exposed to smoke after birth, the higher the risk.

For example, Fleming said babies whose parents smoked, but who were never put into a room where anybody smoked, were still twice as likely to die of SIDS than babies of nonsmokers. Children of smokers who spent eight hours a day in a room where someone sometimes smoked were eight times more likely to die.

''The risk increases crudely by 100 percent for every hour a day a baby spends in a smoky atmosphere. This is startling,'' Fleming said. ''Please don't allow anybody to smoke in a room where the baby sometimes goes.''

Fleming said the team had successfully disproved arguments that it was the behavior of smokers that was to blame, not the smoke itself.

Plea for adoption smoking rules

Adoption agencies should question would-be parents more closely about smoking habits because of the cot death risk to babies, a professor of infant health said yesterday. Prof Peter Fleming, author of a study which found smoking is to blame for two out of three cot deaths, said agencies should ask adoptive parents whether they or anyone else in the home smoked.

"It is the baby's total exposure to cigarette smoke which matters, not just whether the parents smoke," he said. "Babies need to be in a smoke-free environment." Prof Fleming, of Bristol University, said babies whose parents smoked but who were not exposed to tobacco smoke were twice as much at risk as those born to non-smokers. The risk was four times higher for babies exposed to smoking for four hours a day, and eight times higher for those babies who spent eight hours a day in a smoky atmosphere, he said. Prof Fleming said: "The risk goes up 100 per cent for every hour a day the baby spends in a smoky atmosphere. That is startling. Government advice five years ago that babies should be put to sleep on their backs, rather than on their fronts or sides, halved the cot death rate to about 500 deaths a year. Prof Fleming estimates a further 300 lives a year would be saved if babies were kept clear of cigarette smoke. His findings prompted the Government to issue a new leaflet yesterday re-stating existing advice but emphasising the importance to new-born babies of a smoke-free home. A spokesman for British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering said adoptive parents were already asked about their smoking habits and Professor Fleming's recommendations would be considered by its medical committee. when their suitability was being considered.


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