Exposing a child to secondhand smoke can cause a lifetime of health problems, including asthma, increased risk of pulmonary ailments, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The problem is that trying to stop families from smoking around their children is difficult. A new initiative at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is aimed at helping families with a smoker from allowing their habit to adversely affect the life of their child.
The program is going to span five years and will be an attempt to help change the behaviors of smokers so that they do not poison the lungs of their children. At-risk families will be outfitted with air sensors and given extensive training on the dangers associated with secondhand smoke. Those in the intensive program will be given counseling sessions and offered incentives to refrain from smoking around their children.
The children will be monitored through urine tests that will help researchers determine whether or not they are being exposed to secondhand smoke.
The intent is to try to change behavior by giving people information and support. While they know that secondhand smoke is damaging to their child, they are often not told precisely what the long-term effects are, nor are they given valid reasons for why they should not smoke around their children beyond vague assertions that it is damaging to the health of their child.
The hope is that by creating an atmosphere of accountability, a large quantity of focused data, and the support they need to refrain from smoking, they can create an environment for their children that is healthier, along with the possibility of helping them live a lifestyle that improves their own personal health.
This study will be aimed at low-income households where smoking is the most prevalent. The families chosen will be those that have a child in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) whose weakened system places them at a greater risk for lasting damage by being exposed to a home with secondhand smoke.