Findings of a new study suggest that parents who smoke can damage their kids' arteries permanently.

In a study published in the in the European Heart Journal March 5, researchers followed more than 3,000 children who were between the age three and 18-years old at the start of the study through their adulthood to find a link between exposure to parental smoking and increased carotid Intima-media thickness (IMT), the measurement of the innermost two layers of the arterial wall.

The researchers gathered information on the smoking habits of the subjects' parents and measured the thickness of their artery walls when they reached adulthood. They found that the kids whose both parents smoked had .015 mm thicker carotid IMT when they become adults than the kids whose parents did not smoke.

"While the differences in artery thickness are modest, it is important to consider that they represent the independent effect of a single measure of exposure - that is, whether or not the parents smoked at the start of the studies - some 20 years earlier in a group already at greater risk of heart disease. For example, those with both parents smoking were more likely, as adults, to be smokers or overweight than those whose parents didn't smoke," said study author Seana Gall, from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

The researchers, however, did not investigate the effects of having only one parent who smoked. "We think that the effect was only apparent with both parents smoking because of the greater overall dose of smoke these children were exposed to," Gall said. "We can speculate that the smoking behavior of someone in a house with a single adult smoking is different. For example, the parent that smokes might do so outside away from the family, therefore reducing the level of passive smoking. However, as we don't have this type of data, this is only a hypothesis."

The researchers said their study provides another evidence of the negative effects passive smoking has on children and recommended that parents should quit smoking to protect their kids.

"These results show the pervasive effect of exposure to parental smoking on children's vascular health up to 25 years later. There must be continued efforts to reduce smoking among adults to protect young people and to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease across the population," the researchers wrote.

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