Skip to main content

18-12-2013 | Respiratory | Article

Childhood asthma secondhand smoke education vital


Free abstract

medwireNews: A US study has found that smokers caring for children with asthma often underestimate levels of secondhand smoke exposure.

Among 738 smokers interviewed, those who looked after children with asthma were significantly more likely to report having a smoking ban at home than caregivers of children without asthma. However, when the research team objectively measured secondhand smoke in the participants’ homes, there was no significant difference in levels between the two groups.

“Our results suggest that [caregivers to children with asthma] may feel reticent to admit to smoking around their child and may be inclined to overreport positive health behaviors such as implementing a smoking ban,” comment researchers Belinda Borrelli (Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA) and colleagues.

The team placed two air samplers inside the homes of participants, who were told that they were to measure the “air quality” of their homes. Seven days later, the caregivers completed the baseline questionnaire.

When the 443 caregivers to children with asthma were asked to estimate their child’s exposure to secondhand smoke, they reported significantly lower levels than caregivers to children without asthma. This was true for all sources of exposure, except that due to other people’s smoking.

Despite this, levels of secondhand smoke measured by the air samplers revealed moderately high levels in the homes of both groups of caregivers, with no significant difference between them. And, although 60.6% of caregivers to children with asthma and 40.1% of caregivers to children without asthma reported a home smoking ban, 95.9% and 98.4%, respectively, had detectable levels of secondhand smoke in their homes.

The researchers also found that caregivers to children with asthma were significantly more motivated to quit smoking than caregivers to children without asthma, and were less likely to say they had no intention to quit in the next 6 months (3.4 vs 7.5%). These caregivers were also more likely to believe that quitting smoking would have a positive impact on their child’s health.

Writing in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Borrelli et al say that their findings indicate the importance of educating caregivers to children with asthma about secondhand smoke exposure, irrespective of their self-reports.

“Pediatricians, family physicians, and other health care practitioners who interact with families can play an instrumental role in guiding parents who smoke to understand the effects of smoke exposure on their children and to take the first steps to address this important issue and promote the health of all children,” they conclude.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter