Using data from several cycles of the California Health Interview Survey, the study's authors estimate that 561,000 children are directly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. Another 1.9 million are at risk because they live in a home where another family member is a smoker, even though smoking may not be allowed in the home itself.
Secondhand smoke exposes children to a greater risk of developing asthma, respiratory infections and countless other ailments. Research shows that children raised by smokers have a greater risk of becoming smokers themselves.
"The next frontier in the campaign against smoking is to reduce smoking at home," said Sue Holtby, the study's lead author and a senior researcher at the Public Health Institute, which works with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in conducting the California Health Interview Survey. "California's fight against tobacco has been a major public health success story, but we still need to spread awareness and ensure that every family knows the dire consequences of addiction."
Among the findings:African American children three times more likely to live with smokers
The authors noted that the data can help identify communities that may benefit from targeted messages concerning the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke. In particular, media campaigns aimed at African American families, as well as families in the Los Angeles area, may effectively communicate the potential risks that secondhand smoke poses to the health of young children, the researchers said.
Service providers and case workers also have an opportunity to deliver smoking-prevention messages to low-income families eligible for a variety of state and federal assistance programs, such as Medi-Cal and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. Since Medi-Cal and WIC providers usually screen patients and clients for smoking status, they are ideally positioned to identify those who are most at risk and to point parents toward information about smoking-cessation programs in their areas, the authors said.
The study was funded with a grant from First 5 California.
Read the policy brief: "Children's Exposure to Secondhand Smoke: Nearly 2.5 Million Affected in California."
First 5 California is dedicated to educating parents and caregivers about the important role they play in their children's first years. First 5 California's services and support are designed to ensure that more children are born healthy and reach their full potential.
The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) is the nation's largest state health survey and one of the largest health surveys in the United States.
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is one of the nation's leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health-related information on Californians.
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.
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