Parental Excuse Needed for Smoking Sickness

Smoking parents have children missing school from respiratory and ear infections

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) So much research over the past 50 years has been focused on the dangers of smoking to the smoker. Their children are stakeholders in this addiction and are paying a price too.

A recent survey analysis conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that children who live with smokers miss school more often due to lung and ear infections.

"Quit smoking now; your children will thank you."

Douglas Levy, PhD, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Mass General Hospital and the paper's lead author reports that children 6 to 11 years old who live in houses where a smoker is present account for 25 to 33 percent of all school absences. Nationally, it is estimated that $227 million in lost wages for employees and lost time for employers is due to the more than 2.6 million children living with smokers.

Also, he points out almost half of these children are from low income homes and the financial impact is felt even more in this demographic group.

Dr. Levy also explains that in addition to school absences, there are other health consequences from living with a smoker these children will experience. He encourages more research to facilitate the understanding of long-term health consequences and developmental differences these children who live with a smoker experience.

The study authors also estimate that 33 percent of children in the United States live with at least one smoker. Of those, 50 percent will have some measurable level of tobacco in their blood.

Additionally, secondhand smoke exposure has been shown to increase the likelihood of many respiratory conditions, ear infections and school absenteeism.

The research team from Massachusetts General Hospital gathered data from a 2005 National Health Interview Study, a yearly personal interview survey considered to be representative of US households nationwide. From this survey, they chose over 3,000 children whose information was taken from the survey.

The survey questions included:

  • How many smokers were in the home
  • How many school days were missed due to illness
  • How many ear infections did the child have
  • Was the child dealing with gastrointestinal illnesses or chest colds recently

Over 14 percent of those analyzed live with at least one smoker - 8 percent with one smoker and 6 percent with more than one smoker. The children who resided with one smoker, on average, missed 1.06 more days of school than children living with non-smokers. Those living with more than one smoker missed an average of 1.54 more days of school than the control group.

Tobacco smoke was associated with 24 percent of the absences of children living with one smoker and 34 percent in children living with more than one smoker. Household smoking did not appear to increase incidences of gastrointestinal illnesses.

These study results are published in the online edition of Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 5, 2011
Last Updated:
October 8, 2012