Inner-city adults generally don't see the risk of environmental smoke to children

August 1, 2006

A cross-sectional survey indicates that inner-city adults are not knowledgeable about the specific effects of adults' cigarette smoking on children's health. The adults, surveyed in either English or Spanish at a community health center, lived in an urban area and had a child younger than 18 years.

A cross-sectional survey indicates that inner-city adults are not knowledgeable about the specific effects of adults' cigarette smoking on children's health. The adults, surveyed in either English or Spanish at a community health center, lived in an urban area and had a child younger than 18 years.

Subjects were presented with the following incomplete statement: "Cigarette smoking causes increased risk for...." The statement was followed by a list of 10 conditions-six related to child health and four to adult health. Respondents were asked to circle all conditions that they believed correctly completed the statement.

Most participants were unaware of the extent to which environmental tobacco smoke was harmful to children's health. Specifically, 72% did not know that cigarette smoking increased the risk of ear infection in children; 68% did not know about the increased risk of a cold; and 61% did not know about the elevated risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Far more participants were aware that children of parents who smoke are more likely to begin smoking and that cigarette smoking is associated with low birth weight and asthma in children.

CommentaryOn June 27th, US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, issued a statement, "Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke," that, first, summarizes years of research on the deleterious effects of involuntary exposure to smoke and, second, calls for renewed efforts to curb smoking. The authors of this study show that education, in both the office and the community, needs to be a first step in these efforts.