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Parental smoking link to cot deaths

Smoking has been singled out as a major factor in cot deaths by a new report.

A study by Public Health Wales found the rate of fatalities where parents smoked was "alarmingly high".

According to the statistics, out of 45 cases of infant deaths, 25 were from homes where people smoked.

Other risks included sleep position, co-sleeping and a low birth weight.

Dr Paul Davis, author of the Sudden Unexpected Death In Infancy - A Collaborative Thematic Review 2010-2012 report, said the study highlighted the importance of smoke-free environments.

He said: "The fact so many of the deaths are linked to known risk factors suggests many more could be prevented.

"In particular, the rate of smoking among parents was alarmingly high and the importance of a smoke-free environment for young babies cannot be over-estimated.

"Also, the proportion of babies who were co-sleeping with a parent at the time of death, despite the presence of other risk factors, suggest this is an important area for future health promotion.

"It's important parents do not feel they're being blamed for their infant's death. That is not the case, and by definition we do not know the cause of these deaths. However, there are avoidable risks and we should all work together to prevent as many of these tragedies as possible."

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health welcomed the study's findings and said it was crucial that its recommendations were acted on.

The organisation's Wales officer, Dr Mair Parry, said: "Many neonatal deaths are strongly influenced by pre-term delivery and low birth weight - factors commonly linked to habits such as smoking.

"This is a factor that, when compared to the rest of the UK, ranks highest in Wales, and one that is contributing to the unacceptable sudden infant death rate highlighted in today's review.

"As a College, we have long campaigned to reduce the number of avoidable child deaths, with a number of our recommendations echoed in today's report - targeted campaigns to promote safe sleeping, enhanced stop- smoking support for women before, during and after pregnancy, and ensuring healthcare professionals have access to appropriate training to spot those most at risk.

"It's now crucial that we act on these recommendations and develop the mechanisms to reach those families most at risk so we can begin to bring these rates down."

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