Testing young children for tobacco exposure

Maybe you have young children, and you smoke. Or a grandparent does.

Maybe it’s the couple next door in your apartment complex, or perhaps your child rides in the car of a smoker on a regular basis.

Would you want your child tested for secondhand smoke exposure levels?

A national  survey to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics asked parents whether testing children for tobacco smoke should be part of regular well check visits.

Of the 477 parents, smokers and non-smokers, sixty percent agreed that testing was a good idea.

A slightly higher number of smokers said they’d welcome the opportunity for the testing.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) findings show that children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumoniabronchitis, and more severe asthma.

Exposure to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless, says the NCI. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for ear infections and are more likely to need an operation to insert ear tubes for drainage, according to the Surgeon General.

Read more on the risks of second hand smoke exposure and kids from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks that positive test results for tobacco smoke in children may help those who don’t smoke to advocate for safer environments for their children — for example, it may make it easier for parents to ask smokers to refrain from smoking in areas where a child may be present.

The AAP also notes that such testing may also help parents who smoke because they may be curious to know whether their efforts to prevent their child’s tobacco exposure are working.

If such testing became available, the AAP says it could help promote smoke-free homes and cars, and encourage family members to quit smoking. It might also lead to more rapid adoption of smoke-free multi-unit housing nationwide.


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