Many U.S. Kids Exposed to Cigarette Smoke
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More than 20 million US children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, raising their risk for asthma, hospitalizations and missed school days, study findings suggest.
Dr. Mark A. Schuster and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed data from a national health study to determine the frequency of smoking in homes with children, by both residents and visitors.
The findings reveal that 35% of children in the US, or about 21 million, live in homes where someone smokes at least one day a week. And more than 19 million children live in homes where a resident smokes daily, according to the report in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
But it is not just children of smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke. About 16% of nonsmokers with children said they allowed other residents or visitors to smoke in the home.
It is not clear why so many parents expose their children to tobacco smoke, but lower educational levels and lower incomes were found to raise the risk of exposure. Parents living in the South were also more apt to smoke or to allow others to smoke in the home. Parents with younger children and homes with at least two adults, and African-American and Hispanic parents, were less likely to allow smoking in the home, the investigators found.
The results suggest that the US is falling short of reaching national goals set to reduce children's exposure to environmental tobacco smoke by 2010, and that efforts need to be redoubled on different fronts.
"Proposed strategies to reduce children's environmental tobacco smoke exposure include policy-based restrictions, legal sanctions, media and educational efforts, and clinical interventions," Schuster and colleagues write.
In particular, pediatricians could advise parents on how to reduce their children's risk of exposure. Several studies have shown that educating parents can indeed lower exposure to cigarette smoke among children, according to the report.