Kids improve second-hand smoke reports

CHILDREN are more likely than their parents to give an accurate report of how much second-hand smoke they are exposed to at home and in the car, a new study has found.

Parents under-report or are unaware of their children's likely exposure to second-hand smoke and may not realise the extent of the damage being done to the youngsters, according to a study published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The study of 3645 pairs of children (aged 10-13) and their parents found their reporting of exposure to smoke at home and in cars differed significantly.

Only 11 per cent of parents reported that smoking occurred in the home, compared to 38 per cent of children who reported being exposed to smoking in their home.

Chemical testing of the exhaled carbon dioxide of 679 of the quizzed children supported the higher rate, with nearly 30 per cent of children having readings indicative of exposure to second-hand smoke.

"While it is not possible to be sure where exposure occurred, the findings suggest that the children's reports of [second-hand smoke] exposure in the home were likely to be more accurate than the parental reports indicated," the study said.

It said there were some explanations for under-reporting by parents, including that they may not be aware that other adults or the children's friends sometimes smoked in the home.

"Parents' definition of a smokefree home may have been 'generous' or parents have given the answer they thought to be 'right'," the report said.

The study concludes that the findings could impact further research into second-hand smoke.

It also says clinicians should consider advising parents presenting with children with any smoke-related illness that their child may be exposed to more smoke than the parents realise.

The study was conducted predominantly by researchers at the University of Auckland, with funding by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.