Monday, March 21, 2011

Most Parents Support Testing Children for Tobacco Smoke Exposure

According to a new study released online today, 60 percent of parents -- smoking and non-smoking -- indicate that they would like their children tested for tobacco smoke exposure during pediatric visits.

This new study, led from the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC), is the first national study to assess whether testing children for tobacco smoke as part of a regular primary care visit is acceptable to parents.  It will appear in print in the April issue of Pediatrics.

“The surprising result here is that parents who smoke want their own children tested for tobacco smoke exposure,” says Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, of MGHfC and the lead author of the study.  “This may signal the general recognition among parents, even among those who smoke, that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure, and their desire to know whether their child is exposed.”  Other research from this group has recently shown that children who live in multiunit housing have a high probability of being exposed to tobacco smoke even when no one smokes in their unit.

Tests to measure children’s exposure to tobacco smoke are available but are not currently done as part of routine pediatric health care.  One potential barrier to testing children for tobacco smoke exposure has been the belief that parents who smoke would not want their child tested. No previous surveys have assessed whether such testing at a child’s primary care visit would be acceptable to parents.

In this national random-dialed telephone survey of U.S. households, conducted from September to November 2006, out of 2,070 eligible respondents contacted, 1,803 (87.1 percent) completed the surveys. Among 477 parents in the sample, 60.1 percent thought that children should be tested for tobacco-smoke exposure at their child’s doctor visit. Among the parental smokers sampled, 62.0 percent thought that children should be tested.

“When parents and child clinicians see the actual exposure data, they will be better equipped to advocate for clean air in homes and cars, to encourage landlords to establish smoke-free multi-unit housing, and to help parents get the assistance they need to quit smoking,” says Winickoff who is also an associate professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

The study was made possible by grants from the Office of Rural Health Policy of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute and the NCI/National Institute on Drug Abuse/Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Co-authors of the study included Susanne E. Tanski, MD of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Julius B. Richmond Center for Excellence and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Robert C. McMillen, PhD of the Richmond Center and the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University; Kaile M. Ross of MGHfC and the Richmond Center; Ellen A. Lipstein, MD, MPH, of MGHfC and the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Bethany J. Hipple, MPH of MGHfC; Joan Friebely, EdD of MGHfC; and Jonathan D. Klein, MD, MPH of the Richmond Center and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester.

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1811, Massachusetts General Hospital is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of nearly $700 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, reproductive biology, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.

Marty Ray, (617) 726-0274,

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