One in Three Children Regularly Exposed to Tobacco Smoke at Home

Second-hand tobacco smoke threatens the health of 21 million American children ? 35 percent of everyone age 17 and younger ? who live in homes where residents or visitors smoke once a week or more, according to a study published Nov. 13 by researchers from RAND and UCLA. The study is the most thorough ever conducted of youths’ exposure to environmental second-hand tobacco smoke at home. It found that 19 million American children ? 28 percent of everyone in the United States 17 and younger ? are exposed to tobacco smoke at home on a daily basis.From the University of California at Los Angeles:One in Three of Nation’s Children Regularly Exposed to Tobacco Smoke at Home, RAND and UCLA Researchers Find

Second-hand tobacco smoke threatens the health of 21 million American children ? 35 percent of everyone age 17 and younger ? who live in homes where residents or visitors smoke once a week or more, according to a study published Nov. 13 by researchers from RAND and UCLA.

The study is the most thorough ever conducted of youths’ exposure to environmental second-hand tobacco smoke at home. It found that 19 million American children ? 28 percent of everyone in the United States 17 and younger ? are exposed to tobacco smoke at home on a daily basis.

Earlier studies have linked children’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke to increased rates of bronchitis, asthma, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome and school absences.

The number of children exposed to smoking at home is critical because it’s the place children are most likely to be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, researchers said. Although laws have banned smoking from many public places, the study shows that the United States has a long way to go to reach the Healthy People 2010 goal of having just 10 percent of children exposed regularly to any second-hand smoke.

“Second-hand tobacco smoke remains a serious threat to the health of a large proportion of our children, despite widespread efforts to curb the use of tobacco,” said Dr. Mark Schuster, a pediatrician and director of the UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion. “Children are among those most vulnerable to tobacco smoke, so these findings show we still have a lot to do to protect them from this preventable hazard.”

White children are more likely than others to be exposed to smoke at home, the study found. Children are also more likely to be exposed to smoke at home if they come from families that have lower incomes, less education, one or fewer parents at home, or live in the South.

The study, which appears in the November edition of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, is the first to estimate the role that visitors play in exposing children to second-hand tobacco smoke at home. Researchers found that nearly 20 percent of families with children have visitors smoking in their homes on a weekly basis. Indeed, 6 percent of non-smoking families with children have visitors smoking in their homes.

“Parents need to be concerned not only about their own smoking, but also about smoking by visitors,” said Schuster, the study’s lead author. “It doesn’t matter whether the smoke comes from a parent or a guest. It still winds up in the kids’ lungs.”

“Pediatricians and other health care providers need to continue their efforts to educate parents and others about the dangers of smoking, especially around children,” Schuster said. “Although children are protected from tobacco smoke in many public settings, the home can still be a hazardous place for children’s health.”

Other authors of the report are Todd Franke of the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, and Cung Pham of UCLA.

The RAND and UCLA researchers estimated the number of American children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke at home by studying results from the 1994 National Health Interview Survey, a representative sample of the nation conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

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