Health & Wellness

Smoker’s Kids Miss More Days of School

Children who live in households where they are exposed to tobacco smoke miss more days of school than children living in smoke-free homes, a new nationwide study confirms. The report from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US – which finds these children have higher rates of respiratory illnesses that can be caused by second-hand smoke and details the probable economic costs of their increased school absence – has been published in the online edition of Pediatrics.

“Among children ages 6 to 11 who live with smokers, one quarter to one third of school absences are due to household smoking,” says Douglas Levy, PhD, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH, the paper’s lead author. “On a national basis these absences result in $227 million in lost wages and time for caregivers or their employers.”

1 in 3 kids live with smokers

The authors note that one-third of US children live with at least one smoker, and more than half of those aged 3 to 11 have detectable levels of a blood marker for tobacco exposure. Second-hand smoking has been shown to increase incidence of ear infections and several respiratory conditions, and school absenteeism is an accessible measure of serious illness in children. Earlier studies of the relationship between lost school days and household smoking have focused on local populations and did not evaluate the severity of the problem’s impact. The MGH team analysed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Study, an annual in-person survey of representative households nationwide.

Adults responding from households with schoolchildren ages 6 to 11 were asked to evaluate each child’s general health and to answer the following questions:

  • how many people smoked inside the home
  • how many school days the child missed due to illness or injury during the previous year
  • whether the child had three or more ear infections during the previous year
  • whether the child had a chest cold or gastrointestinal illness during the preceding two weeks
  • whether the child had been diagnosed with asthma, and if so, whether the child had any recent asthma attacks

Of the 3,087 children whose information was analysed for this study, more than 14% lived in a home with at least one person who smoked in the house – 8% lived with one household smoker and 6% with two or more – which represents 2.6 million children nationwide. Children living with one in-home smoker had an average of 1.06 more days absent, and those living with two or more had 1.54 more days absent than children living in homes where no one smoked indoors.

Quarter of sick days linked to smoking

Illnesses associated with exposure to tobacco smoke – including ear infections and chest colds – accounted for 24% of absences in children living in homes where one person smoked indoors and 34% for those living in homes with at least two in-home smokers. Household smoking did not increase gastrointestinal illness, and while there also was no association with an asthma diagnosis or asthma attacks, the study sample may have included too few children with asthma to reflect smoke exposure’s known role as an asthma trigger.

The researchers also calculated the potential costs associated with the need to care for children absent from school due to smoke-exposure related illness – costs including lost income for parents without paid time off, the costs to employers of the lost work, and the inability of caregivers not employed outside the home to take care of usual household tasks. “The total impact nationwide was $227 million in lost wages and household work for the families of the 2.6 million children living with smokers and for their employers,” Levy says. “Since almost half of the smoking households in our study had low incomes, that impact may be strongest on households least able to afford it.”

He adds: “The health impact of living with a smoker is probably more extensive than our study shows, since the survey only asked about three conditions associated with smoke exposure and we know there are several more. And since the absentee levels we report are averages, there are probably kids who miss much more school because they live with smokers than our study found. More research is needed to help understand the long-term health, developmental and economic consequence of growing up in a home where people smoke.” Levy is an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.


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Michael Cannon
11 years ago

A friend of mine in the health care industry and I have a bet to see who will be the first one to find an actual study properly set up and monitored that can be verified, duplicated and will produce FACTUAL information about second hand smoke causing ANYTHING.

14 years and counting and neither of us has won the bet.

Second hand smoke causing health problems is another myth with no basis in fact.

11 years ago

Dear AMAC…

Thanks for jumping on the second hand smoke scare bandwagon. The World Health Org. debunked that years ago,
but the study outcome was not widely published.

Please check out the source of this study before you become just another AARP.

Nick Psaki
11 years ago

I wonder how many AMAC members have minor children? Which is to say, why is this stupid article taking up valuable space in a “publication” aimed at seniors? The whole second-hand smoke scam has been exposed years ago, but it has assumed the trappings of a secular religion and none dare speak the truth anymore.

The blatant hypocrisy of the whole anti-smoking campaign can be comprehended by a simple thought experiment: suppose every smoker in America quit tomorrow. Who would pay for all the Nanny State programs and entitlement give-aways (think S-CHIP) so beloved by our elected “leaders?” Meanwhile, what would be the economic impact on the rest of the economy? And what would be the economic impact after the “leaders” raised everyone’s taxes to pay for all the newly unfunded programs? Because you can be sure that none of them will go away….

11 years ago
Reply to  Nick Psaki

As an AMAC member with two young grandchildren who live in a house with parents who smoke, I have a great interest in this report. I don’t agree that this is a “stupid” article taking up valuable space. I would say this is a valuable article that should have more space. I will pass this on to my son and daughter-in-law.

11 years ago

What a complete load of BS!

“Public Education” is turning out morons and these medical fools are worried about the children of smokers.

How much money did these fools suck from the taxpayers to fund this idiot study??

11 years ago

This is an important article. It is saying that secondhand smoke hurts children. Years ago, when you raised your children, you didn’t know it was hurting them. I am sure you were all wonderful parents. But now we know that young lungs do not develop normally when exposed to smoke. Growing bodies make “air bag cells” called alveoli. but because of the secondhand smoke, the cells die too soon. Instead of make new alveoli for the lungs, the body is replacing the damaged, dead cells. This means that children exposed to smoke before the age of eight will have stunted lung capacity for LIFE. This is not something that can correct itself.

Parents should take their cigarettes outside or better yet quit. Even if children are not present, smoking leave residue called third-hand smoke. This sticky substance coats the walls, furniture and floor. Babies crawl across these floors and stick their hands in their mouths, even if they were not in the room at the time of smoking, they can pick up enough toxins to show cotinine (a bio-marker for tobacco smoke exposure) in their urine.

Don’t shoot the messenger. This is not a “left” attempt to control you. Smoking is not healthy, most of you will agree to that. Smoking around your kids is not a good idea either, this article is informative and true….and no I didn’t write it. You can read and learn, but it is up to you how you raise your children.

Mike Stivers
11 years ago
Reply to  Schafer

I don’t know how they do these studies. My own anecdotal evidence is this, my father smoked (2 packs a day) for years as we 6 kids grew up. I just don’t believe there was any 2nd hand ill effects because of my father’s smoking habit. We all grew up very athletic and track stars for the most part. Myself, my brothers and sisters were all known for our athletic ability through school and excelled in track. My younger brother was a long distance runner. I was built more for speed therefore excelled in the sprints, 440 and 880 meter runs. I don’t believe all this about 2nd hand smoke just as I don’t believe in global warming hoax, Bigfoot the Beast and the yetti. As far as missing school is concerned, I went all through high school and probably missed two days at most. One time I missed the bus and my mother didn’t drive. I caught hell for that…. That’s out of 6 years of high school and Jr High.
I also don’t believe in all the hysteria regarding the shiny metal mercury and the “poison” of DDT. As a kid, we used to play with the shiny stuff and rub our dimes with it to turn them real shiny. We handled it like everything else as kids we played with it whenever we could find it. Regarding DDT, growing up in Virginia in the late 1960’s as kids we would chase the “Mosquito Jeep” on our bikes. The Jeep spewed out thick white clouds of DDT smoke to kill the mosquitos that were truly a scourge in the community. Here it is 45 years later and my brothers and sister are all healthy as a horse…….Don’t get me wrong, I gave up smoking years ago and I smoked for about 6 to 7 years.I think it makes you stink and I don’t like smokers around me however they have a right to smoke as far as I’m concerned…………………………Just sayin………..

11 years ago
Reply to  Mike Stivers

The cigarettes of the 1950’s are not the same as the ones made today. They are engineered, fluffed, and grown differently. Also when I was a kid, I was not home that much, I was outside playing. Kids are inside much more today so if their parents smoke, they would have a greater exposure. There were lots of things different in the 1950’s, I didn’t wear a seat belt either, but I do now. Science and new cures come to light and we advance. Unlike some of the items on the “liberal” agenda, the problems with secondhand smoke are well documented and should be take seriously. I do not think that there are many people who believe smoking is harmless to their health, why would secondhand smoke be any healthier?

11 years ago

Well this is a bunch of garbage as usual my son went to school everyday unless he was sick or school was closed which seems more and more and his dad and I both smoke and guess what my son doesn’t smoke never has and is now thirty and still doesn’t.And he went to a private school too so my smoking wasn’t as important as getting him out of the GOVERNMENT ENDOCTRINATING SCHOOLS.My son when he was young didn’t own his room he didn’t own his clothes and he didn’t tell me what to do and he sure didn’t pay for anything and the rule was and still is as long as your under this roof even when you get old enough to pay rent and what not the rules are the same if you don’t like them MOVE OUT.And guess what my mother was a full blown alcoholic and all nine of us children aren’t and are good citizens who rasied families and obeyed the laws so LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT you can choose to follow or you can lead my son chose to lead and I thank GOD he doesn’t smoke and doesn’t drink like a fish and goes to work everyday and supports himself because that’s the way we raised him CIGARETTES AND ALL. SO STUFF THIS IN THE GARBAGE ALONG WITH ALL THE OTHER PC CRAP.IF these kids are missing so much school MAYBE IT’S JUST THEIR LAZY PARENTS.

11 years ago
Reply to  Jean

My husband and I, both ex-smokers, raised 5 children who never had allergies or respiratory problems and seldom missed a school day. Only 1 of the 5 smoke and 3 of them have grown children who smoke. My parents never smoked. My husbands parents both smoked. All of my siblings smoked while their children were growing and none of them had respiratory problems. I quit smoking at age 67 and I don’t miss it but I hate all this false information about the “poor children of smokers.”

10 years ago
Reply to  Nancy

i know the state of californias insunarce covers stop smoking aids and im sure alot do it just depends on what you want to use to stop smoking there are gums, patches, hypnotizm plus the stuff they sell to remove the smoke smells

11 years ago

This is a highly suspect ‘study’ since it’s unable to make any direct connections between any of the groups counted. This is another one of those those politically correct fishing trips that arrives at the predetermined conclusion.

The fact is that most smoking related conditions are the result of a predisposition to certain diseases and there has never been a conclusive study showing any effects of so-called second hand smoke, as hard as the lawyers have tried. I’ve given up correcting my doctor who congratulates me every time he checks me out and declares that I’m ‘lucky’ I don’t smoke. I’ve smoked for 44 years.

11 years ago

I agree with Uncle Pat 110%. This is just a bunch of crap made up by the left to control you. Make about as much sense as global warming…oops! I’m sorry! Climate change. Any time the left wants to control society, they’ll make up some b.s. like this. Kinda makes you wonder what they’ll think of next!

10 years ago
Reply to  Dae

If you’re able to quit for 3 4 months then that makes this a dififcult question. Of course the physical addiction is gone in that amount of time, so it’s definitely mental.One thing I’ve recently learned is that the calming effect of cigarettes is not from a chemical reaction, but from the act of deep breathing. Is it stressful situations that trigger your relapse? If so, it may seem silly, but try 3 5 minutes of deep breathing when you feel the urge to light up.

11 years ago

I smoked for 30 plus years and now I have lung disease. The disease in not currable. It is quite sacarry when you have a hard time breathing.

Curtis Shelton
11 years ago

I smoked for twenty six years and it was only by the grace of God that the cancer did not kill me. I am a survivor. The facts of the research are there for us to see. We of course can and will deny them in order to continue doing whatever it is we are doing. My papa smoked (rolled his own) and did not die until he was late eighties. (Heart attack) but a testimony like that of our personal experience, does not change the facts of the reseach. We can choose to ignore them and then we can turn in other directions once we become one of the statistics. I’m just sayin’

C. Schafer
11 years ago

Young lungs do not develop normally when exposed to smoke. Their bodies make as many cells, but because of the secondhand smoke, the cells die sooner. Instead of make new “air bag cells” for the lungs, the body is replacing the damaged, dead cells. This means that children exposed to smoke before the age of eight will have stunted lung capacity for LIFE. This is not something that can correct itself.(1)
Parents should take their cigarettes outside or better yet quit. Even if children are not present, smoking leave residue called third-hand smoke. This sticky substance coats the walls, furniture and floor. Babies crawl across these floors and stick their hands in their mouths, even if they were not in the room at the time of smoking, they can pick up enough toxins to show cotinine (a bio-marker for tobacco smoke exposure) in their urine.(2)

11 years ago

I know many will dispute this, but I worked for a very large company for many years. It was always the non-smokers calling in sick.

C. Schafer
11 years ago
Reply to  James

Considering less than a quarter of the people in the US smoke, that would make sense.

Uncle Pat
11 years ago

What a load of crap ! I smoked when my kids were in school. Neither one of them missed a single day ! And I smoked in MY house, because it was MY house.

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