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New Delhi: Exposure to passive smoking in childhood significantly increased the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in adult smokers, a study has showed.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and feet.

The study presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) in Spain confirmed the link between active smoking and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The findings showed that in smokers who had childhood passive exposure to smoke, the hazard ratio was 1.73 compared with non-smokers not exposed during childhood.

It also suggests for the first time that in smokers, exposure to tobacco early in life through passive smoking in childhood significantly increased this risk.

“Our study highlights the importance of avoiding any tobacco environment in children, especially in those with a family history of RA,” said Professor Raphaele Seror from University Hospitals of South Paris in France.

Smoking led to the formation of new bony growths (known as syndesmophytes), the researchers said.