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FRENCH STUDY

HEALTH

Passive smoking causes kids behavioural issues

A study of thousands of French primary school pupils has concluded that children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy or are born into smokers' homes are twice as likely to suffer from behavioural problems as they grow up.

Passive smoking causes kids behavioural issues
Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy at high risk of developing behavioural disorders. Photo: Shutterstock

Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy — and even those born into smokers' homes — are nearly twice as likely to develop behavioural problems, researchers said Tuesday.

A study of some 5,200 French primary school children linked exposure to smoking with a range of troubling behaviour such as aggression, disobedience, lying and cheating.

“Exposure to tobacco during pregnancy and after birth practically doubles the risk of behaviour problems among primary school children aged on average around 10 years,” study head Isabella Annesi-Maesano, of France's leading government health research body INSERM, told AFP.

The culprit could be the toxic effect that nicotine has on developing brains — especially during the first months of life, said the study published last month in American journal PlOS One.

Researchers said the higher risk was demonstrated by the fact that 18 percent of children exposed to smoke before and after birth exhibited behaviour problems, compared with the 9.7 percent who came from non-smoking households.

The results were based on questionnaires filled out by parents which assessed their children's behaviour and whether they had been exposed to tobacco before their first birthday.

Researchers also reported higher risks of emotional disorders — like becoming easily afraid — in children exposed to nicotine in the womb or in early life.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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