Many Parents Don't Set Secondhand Smoke Rules
Without Rules, Children Exposed to Secondhand Smoke at Home and in Cars
WebMD News Archive
Many parents don't enforce rules about exposing their children to secondhand
smoke at home or outside the home, a new study suggests.
Despite health warnings about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure for
children, researchers found that a large portion of parents don't restrict
smoking at home, in the car, or at a restaurant.
The study showed that 40% of parents and guardians surveyed in New York and
New Jersey don't have rules to limit their children's secondhand smoke exposure
at home, and more than 50% of family cars may expose children to secondhand
Secondhand Smoke Harms Children
Researchers say secondhand smoke is classified as a Class A environmental
carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) and is especially harmful to children,
according to the World Health Organization. Exposure to secondhand smoke
increases children's risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such as
bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as ear infections and worsening of
In the study, which appears in the spring issue of Families, Systems
& Health, researchers surveyed 1,770 parents and guardians who were
waiting for their child's appointment with a pediatrician in the New York-New
Jersey metropolitan area.
The participants were asked about whether they enforced rules such as
"Only adults can smoke," "Adults can smoke, but not around
children," and "No smoking is allowed in my home."
In regard to smoking at home, the study showed:
- About 60% of all families reported having a smoke-free home.
- Slightly over 20% of parents allow adults to smoke in the home.
- Over 50% ask people to smoke outside the home rather than inside.
- About 35% allow smoking in the home but not around young children.
In general, researchers found Asian parents were least likely to establish
home smoking rules. Families with higher incomes were less likely to endorse
rules that restricted smoking but were more likely to have a totally smoke-free
People who had never smoked were also more than five times less likely to
allow smoking in their home. Having smokers in the home increased the
likelihood of rules that allowed restricted smoking.
Secondhand Smoke Outside the Home
Outside the home, the study showed that less than half of the participants
forbid smoking in the car or usually sit in the nonsmoking section of
Nearly 40% of parents say they ask others not to smoke around their
Researchers found families with low incomes and ethnic minorities were less
likely to have rules that limit their children's exposure to secondhand smoke
outside the home. Families with incomes over $41,000 were more likely to limit
secondhand smoke exposure outside the home and report having a completely