Where There's Smoke There's Worse Asthma

Fewer children with asthma are exposed to secondhand smoke but numbers still high

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) One of the worst things a person with asthma can do is smoke, or even be around tobacco smoke. Fortunately, fewer asthmatic kids are smoking or are around secondhand smoke.

A recent study compared kids with asthma across three different time periods. The researchers were measuring how much smoke they were exposed to.

Overall, the percentage of asthmatic kids and teens exposed to tobacco smoke in general or in the home has dropped considerably.

Yet the researchers still found that more than one in six young people with asthma were exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes during 2005 to 2010. About the same number smoked themselves.

"All kids should avoid secondhand smoke."

The study, led by Brian K. Kit, MD, MPH, of the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aimed to learn how many kids with asthma were exposed to secondhand smoke in the US.

The researchers used data from 2,250 kids and teens, aged 4 to 19, who had asthma during the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 1988-1994, 1999-2004 and 2005-2010.

The researchers measured the levels of cotinine - the chemical that nicotine breaks down into in the body - in the youth's blood to determine their exposure levels to firsthand or secondhand smoke. They also asked whether the kids smoked themselves or were exposed to smoke in their homes.

Among the kids aged 12 to 19 in the 2005-2010 group, 17 percent reported smoking. Among the full group, from age 4 to 19, who had asthma but did not smoke, over half (53 percent) were exposed to secondhand smoke, and 17 percent were exposed to cigarette smoke in their home.

The numbers were even higher among youth who came from low-income families. A total of 70 percent of low-income youth were exposed to secondhand smoke, and 28 percent were exposed to smoke in their homes.

The good news, however, is that the amount of secondhand smoke that kids with asthma are exposed to has dropped from the first survey (1988-1994) to the most recent one (2005-2010). In 1988 to 1994, 89 percent of kids with asthma were exposed to secondhand smoke, and 36 percent were exposed to smoke in their homes.

Still, the researchers found that the majority of kids with asthma still have exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, and about one in six smoke themselves.

Having asthma and being around tobacco smoke can make asthma symptoms worse and reduce the lungs' ability to function.

The study was published February 11 in the journal Pediatrics. The research did not use external funding, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 10, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013