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Study Finds Secondhand Smoke Exposure Increases School Absenteeism

Posted on September 7, 2011

A study released in June from Massachusetts General Hospital found that children exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes missed significantly more days of school and reported significantly more ear infections and chest colds than children who do not live with smokers.

The study was an analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey. Fourteen percent of children surveyed lived with a smoker, representing 2.6 million children in the United States. Households without smokers were more likely to be higher educated, have a higher income and were more likely to be Hispanic than households with smokers. Households with one smoker had higher incomes and were more likely to be white than households with two or more smokers.

Children who lived with one smoker had on average one more day absent from school per year and children with two or more smokers one and a half more days absent than children without smokers in their homes. The authors found that eliminating smoking from the homes of children living with smokers could reduce their absenteeism by 24% to 34%. These data suggest that between one quarter and one third of missed school days are the result of secondhand smoke exposure. Additionally, this excess absenteeism resulted in caregivers losing $227 million per year in wages and household production while taking care of sick children.

Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study the impact of low birth weight and prematurity, also associated with secondhand smoke exposure. Dr. H. Gerry Taylor studies the neurological implications of low birth weight. A policy brief on his recent talk on school progress in children with extreme prematurity can be downloaded here. Dr. Marilyn Lotas studies the health issues very low and low birth weight infants. Dr. Maureen Hack’s research interests include the outcome of very low birth weight children. Additionally, Dr. Scott Frank studies smoking cessation programs.

To read the study on Pediatrics website, click here.

To read a Science Daily article on the study, click here.

To read a CNN article on the study, click here.

Page last modified: February 24, 2014