Majority of parents who smoke expose their children to tobacco smoke in their cars, study says; many of these parents have smoke-free policies at home

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Illinois , November 13, 2012 (press release) – OBJECTIVE: To determine prevalence and factors associated with strictly enforced smoke-free car policies among smoking parents.

METHODS: As part of a cluster, randomized controlled trial addressing parental smoking, exit interviews were conducted with parents whose children were seen in 10 control pediatric practices. Parents who smoked were asked about smoking behaviors in their car and receipt of smoke-free car advice at the visit. Parents were considered to have a “strictly enforced smoke-free car policy” if they reported having a smoke-free car policy and nobody had smoked in their car within the past 3 months.

RESULTS: Of 981 smoking parents, 817 (83%) had a car; of these, 795 parents answered questions about their car smoking policy. Of these 795 parents, 29% reported having a smoke-free car policy, and 24% had a strictly enforced smoke-free car policy. Of the 562 parents without a smoke-free car policy, 48% reported that smoking occurred with children present. Few parents who smoke (12%) were advised to have a smoke-free car. Multivariable logistic regression controlling for parent age, gender, education, and race showed that having a younger child and smoking ≤10 cigarettes per day were associated with having a strictly enforced smoke-free car policy.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of smoking parents exposed their children to tobacco smoke in cars. Coupled with the finding of low rates of pediatricians addressing smoking in cars, this study highlights the need for improved pediatric interventions, public health campaigns, and policies regarding smoke-free car laws to protect children from tobacco smoke.

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