Secondhand smoke could make children miss more school.
A new study in the journal Pediatrics reports that children who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke miss more school due to illness than those who live in households with non-smokers.
Researchers found that children living with one or more smokers in the home missed an average of one to two more days of school per year than those who lived with non-smokers when they analyzed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey.
The study indicates that roughly one in three children in the United States live in the same house with a smoker. Of those children aged 3 to 11 living with smokers, at least 56% have detectable levels of a chemical called serum cotinine, a breakdown of nicotine that could indicate tobacco smoke exposure.
Dr. Douglas Levy, the study’s principal investigator and Assistant in Health Care Policy at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy said “Kids living with people smoking in the home were more likely to have ear infections and chest colds…Among kids who were living with smokers, a quarter to one-third of the days they missed from school can be attributed to the fact that they live with someone who smokes in the home.”
The research suggests that eliminating smoking from their households could allow families to reduce the amount of school their children miss by 24 to 34 %. There also appeared to be an additive effect–more smokers in a household increased the chance of illness.
Levy says the smoking related illness creates a financial burden for households as well because caregivers must take off work to care for sick children. He said “When kids are home from school, particularly young kids, the cost overall is $227 million dollars per year. All due to the extra days that we see kids missing school because of secondhand smoke exposure.”
The study was limited to children under 13 and study authors acknowledege the imprecision of their measurements of tobacco exposure, and that the study does not account for tobacco exposure outside the home.
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