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Chain Smoking

Smoke exposure at home increases illness-related school absences

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Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke at home miss more days of school than do children living in smoke-free homes, says a report from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital. The researchers also find these children have higher rates of respiratory illnesses that can be caused by second-hand smoke. The study appears in the October 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

"Among children ages 6 to 11 who live with smokers, one-quarter to one-third of school absences are due to exposure to smoke in the household," says lead author Douglas Levy, an HMS assistant professor of medicine and a member of the faculty at the hospital's Mongan Institute for Health Policy. "On a national basis, these absences result in $227 million in lost wages and time for caregivers or their employers."

The team analyzed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Study, an annual in-person survey of representative households nationwide. Of the 3,087 children whose information was analyzed, those 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 did children living in homes where no one smoked indoors.

Illnesses associated with exposure to tobacco smoke—including ear infections and chest colds—accounted for 24 percent of absences in children living in homes where one person smoked indoors and 34 percent for those living in homes with two or more in-home smokers.

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