Most parents agree: Test children for smoke exposure

Approval to screen during primary care check-ups comes from smokers and nonsmokers alike, a study says.

By Alicia Gallegos — Posted March 25, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The majority of parents agree that children should be tested for tobacco smoke exposure during primary care visits, according to a study published online March 21 in Pediatrics.

The study found that of 477 smoking and nonsmoking parents, 60% say children should be tested for smoke exposure as part of pediatric exams. Among smoking parents, 62% agreed with having children tested. No surveys previously measured parental acceptance of tobacco smoke exposure tests in the context of children's health care visits, according to the study (link).

The findings dispel a misconception that parents who smoke would not want their children tested for tobacco exposure, said study author Jonathan P. Winickoff, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

"One of the barriers to testing kids for tobacco is: 'Maybe it will alienate parents who smoke,' " he said. "I think that's why the results are so surprising. We found quite the opposite."

Parents with lower education, women, nonwhites and people who live in homes where smoking occurs were more likely to want their child tested, the study showed. These attitudes could reflect fear of greater tobacco exposure in their children or curiosity about whether efforts to prevent exposure are working, the study said.

The results show that tobacco contact weighs heavily on the minds of parents, Dr. Winickoff said, and that tobacco testing is an appropriate responsibility of primary care physicians.

"One interesting thing is parents are going to be real partners with clinicians in finding out if children are exposed," he said.

Although tobacco exposure can be tested a variety of ways, including through urine analysis, the survey found that most parents prefer the test as an add-on to a blood test. The finding helps to decide how best to incorporate tobacco tests into regular examinations, the study's authors said.

More testing for tobacco in children could have positive impacts, such as the discovery of an unknown smoking source. That could be a previously contaminated house or tobacco seepage into a home by way of multiunit housing. Families living in multiunit housing can be exposed to tobacco from other units because of shared airspace, Dr. Winickoff said. Positive tobacco test results in children could prompt more landlords to prevent smoking in their buildings, he added.

The American Medical Association adopted policy in June 2010 that smoking be prohibited in multiunit housing.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn