Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Young people exposed to tobacco, either by using it themselves or being around individuals who do, have a much higher risk for elevated blood pressure, compared to those with no exposure, a study published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open found.
Adolescents and teens who are active tobacco users -- meaning they smoke, vape or chew tobacco -- are more than twice as likely to develop elevated blood pressure, a precursor to high blood pressure, compared to non-users, the data showed.
Although the risk is lower among young people who experience "passive" exposure -- being around someone who uses tobacco regularly -- they may be as much as 50% more likely to see a rise in blood pressure than children who aren't exposed.
"We already know that passive smoke exposure is harmful for kids' lungs," study co-author Dr. Rebecca V. Levy told UPI.
"This study provides more evidence that any degree of tobacco exposure is also bad for their blood vessels," said Levy, a research fellow in adult and pediatric nephrology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
High blood pressure affects up to half of all adults in the United States and up to 4% of those 12 to 19 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, about 10% of those in that age group have elevated blood pressure, or pre-hypertension, which increases their risk for high blood pressure and related health problems, the agency estimates.
For this study, Levy and her colleagues analyzed the effects of tobacco exposure on blood pressure in 8,520 children ages 8 to 19.
Children who reported tobacco exposure -- active, passive or both -- tended to be older, just over age 13, and male.
Those with active or passive tobacco exposure had a 31% higher risk for elevated blood pressure compared to children who had no exposure.
And active tobacco users had double the risk for elevated blood pressure and high blood pressure compared to children who had neither active or passive tobacco exposure.
"Since childhood high blood pressure predicts adult high blood pressure, and we know that adult hypertension is associated with heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, [tobacco exposure] may represent a modifiable risk factor for these conditions," Levy said.
"This study provides additional support for reducing tobacco exposure in children [and] parents should try to quit smoking themselves and work toward a smoke-free environment for their children," she said.