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Parents who won't give up smoking for their own sake ought to quit for the sake of their children. Studies increasingly show that those exposed to secondhand smoke suffer from that exposure.

A report released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that young children who live in households with smokers suffered poorer health than similar youngsters in homes where there were no smokers.The study of children under age 5 noted that perhaps one-quarter of all youngsters in this age group had been exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth.

While the authors of the study argued against reading too much into the results - since they involved only 5,356 children - they did say that fair to poor health in youngsters appears to be associated with various exposures to cigarette smoke. That's saying a lot.

Parents who smoke sometimes can display a kind of blindness toward what their tobacco habit may be doing to their children.

This is illustrated by the experience of a Deseret News editor who pulled alongside an auto recently and noted that the parents had a baby properly strapped into an infant safety seat. This would seem to indicate a high level of parental care and con-cern.

Yet both parents were unconcernedly puffing away on cigarettes, creating a haze of smoke inside the car and enveloping the child so carefully protected against the hazard of accidents.

As Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of health and human services, said of the study: "I can't think of a more compelling reason for parents to quit smoking than ensuring their children's chance for a healthy life."