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Study: Kids Of Smokers More Likely To Be Hospitalized

cigarette smoking

At Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, about every other young patient has been exposed to tobacco smoke. Nationally, that rate is 35%. The high number of kids exposed to harmful second- and third-hand smoke prompted a study based out of the University of Cincinnati analyzing the hospital habits of 1,400 children.

Associate Professor Ashley Merianos, Ph.D., says the results show kids who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to face myriad medical needs.

"A higher number of tobacco smoke-exposed children had an urgent care visit within a one year period compared to the unexposed group. And also, most notably, those who are exposed had nearly twice the risk of being admitted to the hospital over that same one year period compared to unexposed children," she said.

For years, the medical community has known exposing children to tobacco smoke increases their risk of respiratory symptoms, asthma, and infections. This new study shows the direct correlation of tobacco smoke exposure and hospital or medical visits.

"Compared to unexposed children, those who are exposed had higher pediatric emergency department visit costs, which was an average of about $120 more in the tobacco smoke exposed group compared to the unexposed group," Merianos said. "That was very interesting to see that difference."

She says the results of the study show how essential it is to screen for household tobacco use at every pediatric visit and get families engaged in tobacco exposure prevention.

Merianos says one reason this is so important is because people falsely think smoking outside or away from children protects them from the negative health effects of tobacco smoke exposure. She says that's not the case.

"Third-hand smoke is a tobacco pollution that persists in the air and on surfaces after smoking has stopped. So this can be embedded in materials and objects such as carpet, furniture, and on smokers' clothes and in their skin. And also third-hand smoke can linger indoors for months to years," she says.

Nationally, smoking is at an all-time 14% low.In Ohio and Kentucky, cigarette use is much higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.5% of people in Ohio smoke and the rate is 23.4% in Kentucky.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

For more information about third-hand smoke, Merianos recommends visiting thirdhandsmoke.org.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.