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Wellington campusThursday 22 March 2018 1:52pm

Smoking indoors image
New research from the University of Otago, Wellington, has found links between smokefree households and the likelihood of teens taking up smoking.

New Zealand children and teens growing up in smokefree homes are less likely to take up smoking, even if their parents are smokers, a University of Otago, Wellington, study has found.

The research just published in the international journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, shows the relationship between exposure to smoke in the home and adolescent smoking has become stronger over time. The association is independent of parental smoking – so children with one or more parent who smoke are less likely to take up smoking if there is no smoking in the home.

Jude Ball small
Lead author Jude Ball, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.

“Not only do smokefree homes protect children's health by preventing exposure to second-hand smoke, but also children from smokefree homes are less likely to take up smoking themselves,” says the study's lead author Jude Ball, from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington.

However, exposure to second-hand smoke in homes remains common. Using annual data from the ASH Year 10 survey of 14-15 year olds, the study found the proportion of 14-15 year olds living in smokefree homes barely changed between 2003 and 2015, although less 14-15 year olds were exposed to smoking in the home on a daily basis.

“The good news is that fewer teens are breathing in second-hand smoke at home on a daily basis. However, second-hand smoke exposure in the home has remained stubbornly high, and the proportion of teen smoking attributable to second-hand smoke exposure has gone up over time, particularly for Māori.” says Ms Ball. “So we need to do more to support families to have a completely smokefree home.”

The latest ASH results (2016) show that 11 per cent of Māori 14-15 year olds were regular smokers, compared to five per cent of 14-15 year olds in the general population.

Ms Ball noted: “Smoking is more common in Māori than non-Māori adults, and so Māori teens are more exposed to smoking in the home. Our study suggests the relationship between exposure to smoking in the home and teen smoking is also stronger in Māori teens. This means that promoting smokefree homes could have an even greater positive effect for Māori.”

The researchers suggest that for the best chance of reducing smoking further amongst teens, eliminating ethnic disparities in teen smoking, and creating a smokefree generation, more attention is needed to encouraging and supporting parents to introduce
smokefree homes – for example through public education campaigns, distributing information about the benefits of smokefree homes and tips about how to introduce them, and health professional led and community-based interventions.

Read the full paper: Addressing ethnic disparities in adolescent smoking: Is reducing exposure to smoking in the home a key? Nicotine & Tobacco Research, March 2018.

For further information contact:

Jude Ball
Department of Public Health University of Otago, Wellington

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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