A recent study assessed the effects of secondhand smoke in children and found that exposure can potentially lead to neurodevelopmental deficits in this younger population.

The cross-sectional, population-based study included children aged six to eight. Each underwent a comprehensive eye exam and OCT testing to measure retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness. The researchers administered a questionnaire to document secondhand smoke exposure.

Of the 3,103 children in the study, 35.4% experienced secondhand smoke exposure. Unlike those who were not exposed, the age, gender, body mass index, birth weight and axial length of exposed children were comparable. The families of these patients had a smaller income, and the parents had a lower education level.

The researchers found that exposure to secondhand smoke was associated with a thinner global peripapillary RNFL by 4.4μm. They linked this reduced thickness to a higher number of smokers in the family and an increased quantity of secondhand smoke. They concluded that, as a result of secondhand smoke, a thinner peripapillary RNFL may put a child at increased risk for future visual impairment. They recommend limiting exposure to secondhand smoke in children.

Li J, Yuan N, Chu WK, et al. Exposure to secondhand smoke in children is associated with a thinner retinal nerve fiber layer: the Hong Kong Children Eye Study. Am J Ophthalmol. October 29, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].