ECHO-funded study sheds light on second- and third-hand smoke exposure in kids

A recent study funded by the ECHO Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and National Institute on Drug Abuse, shows that infants and toddlers in low-income, rural areas may be at higher risk for second- and third-hand smoke than previously reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Findings were dependent on the detectable presence of cotinine – the byproduct formed when the body breaks down nicotine – in the children’s systems.

Based on an analysis of saliva samples collected from 1,218 children, 15 percent were in the high exposure group when tested for cotinine, demonstrating levels that are comparable to active adult smokers. Forty-eight percent of the children classified as moderate exposure and 37 percent fell in the low exposure group.

Other key findings from the study include lower smoke exposure for children in center-based daycare facilities and higher smoke exposure for infants, compared with toddlers. This is partially attributed to crawling and infants’ tendencies to put objects into their mouths. Additionally, according to the study, “lower income, less education, frequent residential moves and fluctuations in the number of adults within the home were associated with high smoke exposure.”

“Our results, if supported by future studies, can help educate parents and caregivers, as well as improve prevention programs that seek to reduce children’s smoke exposure,” said Clancy Blair, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and the senior author of the study.

The study was published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research December 5, 2018.