Children and teens exposed to tobacco smoke at increased risk for missing school

It’s the start of a new school year and one way parents can help their kids stay in school is to quit smoking.

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that for adolescents without asthma, tobacco smoke exposure (TSE) at home for over an hour increased the likelihood of days missed from school due to being sick with illnesses related to TSE. “Adolescents who are exposed to tobacco smoke are at substantial risk for cough, wheeze, acute respiratory infections, pneumonia, ear problems, and asthma” (1). TSE is a well documented risk factor for children with asthma, thus this studies findings contribute to the lack of documentation surrounding the risks for adolescents without asthma. The study also found that any level of TSE increased the likelihood of ER and urgent care visits for teenagers exposed.

A previous study (2011) published in the same journal found that the likelihood of children missing school was higher for those living with one smoker than those who did not live with anyone who smoked inside the home. An interesting correlation was found as well in that the more smokers at home, the higher the number of days were missed. This is likely due to an increased level of second or third-hand smoke(2). Third-hand smoke is residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of indoor surfaces (such as furniture or clothes) by tobacco smoke. Thus, smoking outdoors does not eliminate TSE. In fact, an older study found that the exposure levels in homes with outdoor-only smokers had 5-7 times the levels found in homes of nonsmokers(3).

There is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure for children and adolescents. The biggest reason to quit is the smallest. For information on how to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

  1. Merianos, A., Jandarov, R., & Mahabee-Gittens, E. (2018). Adolescent Tobacco Smoke Exposure, Respiratory Symptoms, and Emergency Department Use. Pediatrics, 142(3), e20180266. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-0266
  2. Levy, D., Winickoff, J., & Rigotti, N. (2011). School Absenteeism Among Children Living With Smokers. PEDIATRICS, 128(4), 650-656. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1067
  3. Matt G, Quintana P, Hovell M, et al. Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Tobacco Control. 2004;13(1):29-37. doi:10.1136/tc.2003.003889.

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