A MAJOR campaign is being launched to stop Wearside children being harmed by second-hand smoke.
Health bosses say that youngsters are breathing in harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons by being near people who smoke each day.
They argue it increases the chances of children getting lung disease and meningitis, while also costing the NHS more than £23million annually.
The campaign comes after a survey of North East children revealed some shocking statistics.
It found that 99 per cent of children want their parents to give up smoking, and that 97 per cent wished their mums and dads wouldn’t light up cigarettes in front of them in the home.
The Government and doctors now want parents to keep their homes and cars smoke free so that children can lead healthier lives.
Dr Geoff Lawson, consultant paediatrician at Sunderland Royal Hospital, today called on parents to think about the consequences smoking can have on their children.
He said: “I really do urge anyone who smokes around others in the home or the car and thinks they are doing no harm to watch this campaign and think about the effect it is likely to be having on their health, both now and in the future.
“Breathing in second-hand smoke is harmful to anyone but children are especially vulnerable as their lungs and bodies are still developing.
“We see the effects of this on hospital wards too often.
“Babies and children who breathe in smoke are more likely to have asthma and chest infections, get more coughs and colds and need more hospital care and doctors’ appointments.
“Research suggests that being exposed also increases the risk of that child getting lung cancer and heart disease when they are older.
“Every loving parent wants to protect their child and it can be a nasty shock to parents who do smoke in the home or the car of the harm it can cause.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking group Fresh, says mums and dads should do more to protect their youngsters from second-hand smoke.
She said: “When a cigarette burns, the smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals including tar, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.
“Many parents do already take steps such as opening a window, but this doesn’t stop the toxic poisons contained in smoke filling a room or a car and children breathing it in.
“These fumes can hang around for hours.
“The only way to protect your child is to make your home or car completely smoke free.”