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Cypriot kids exposed to nicotine risk

CHILDREN in Cyprus have alarming levels of nicotine in their blood, researchers said yesterday, highlighting passive smoking as a threat to development.

The Health Ministry found traces of metabolized nicotine, known as cotinine, in the saliva of 94 percent of children from non-smoking households and 97 percent of all surveyed children.

Eighteen percent of children aged between four and eight showed high levels of the substance, the researchers said, citing a study of 71 households. "The fact that children who lived in a non-smoking environment had cotinine suggests it is in their broader environment, like relatives' homes or other areas," said Stella Michaelidou, director of the State Laboratory.

"It is a pilot survey but the results are too significant to ignore," she said. "Children have a unique sensitivity to their environment because they are still developing. There is an important need to protect and prevent exposure to harmful chemicals."

Cyprus ranks 17th among EU member states for smoking prevalence, according to 2003 figures from the World Health Organization, but Cypriot males are the bloc's 6th heaviest smokers. About 42 percent of households contain a smoker.

The island banned smoking in public places in 2002, but the law is not strictly followed and smokers still puff away in bars and clubs. Parliament is debating new laws.


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