Kids of smoking parents often exposed to tobacco smoke in cars
A large number of smoking parents exposed their children to tobacco smoke in their cars, even though many had smoke-free policies at home, a new study has revealed.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) investigators' study suggests that parents may not recognize the dangers of smoking in their cars with a child present.
"Workplaces, restaurants, homes and even bars are mostly smoke-free, but cars have been forgotten," said Emara Nabi-Burza, MBBS, MS, the study's lead author.
"Smoking in cars is not safe for motorists and nonsmokers - especially children, who have no way to avoid tobacco smoke exposure in their parent's car. Now that we know the magnitude of the problem, paediatricians and the public can act to help these children," suggested Nabi-Burza, who is an investigator with the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at MGHfC.
The researchers said that tobacco smoke could contribute to an increased risk of respiratory infections, cancer and even death in children.
Homes have traditionally been considered the main indoor source of smoke exposure for children, but recent studies have found elevated levels of tobacco smoke contaminants in cars, said Nabi-Burza, noting that children may spend a considerable amount of time in their family's car.
In the study, researchers interviewed 795 smoking parents about their car-smoking policy and behaviour, including whether they exposed their children to tobacco smoke in their cars.
The participants were interviewed while exiting from their child's doctors' office in one of 10 paediatric practices in eight states. Seventy-three percent of the parents admitted that someone had smoked in their car in the past 3 months. Of the 562 parents who did not have a smoke-free car policy, 48 percent smoked in the car when their children were present. Most parents adopted a "strictly enforced" smoke-free policy in their homes, but only 24 percent of parents had a strictly enforced smoke-free policy for their cars.
Only about one-fifth of the parents reported being asked by a paediatric health care provider about their smoking status. Few of the parents who smoked (12 percent) were advised by the provider to avoid smoking in their cars.
This is the first known study to examine the rates at which paediatricians address smoking in cars; and due to the low percentage of parents counselled on this issue, the researchers concluded that paediatricians should address tobacco use with parents and encourage them to have strict smoke-free home and car policies to help reduce tobacco smoke exposure of children.
Because of their role in advocating for children's health, Nabi-Burza said paediatricians have the unique opportunity to counsel parents on creating a strict smoke-free car policy.
The study has been released online and will appear in the December 2012 issue of Pediatrics.