2.5 Million Children in California At-Risk of Secondhand Smoke Exposure

New study finds that African-American, low-income children at highest risk.

A study published by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research states, “Despite having the second-lowest smoking rate in the nation, California is still home to nearly 2.5 million children under the age of 12 who are exposed to secondhand smoke.” The study estimates that over 500,000 children are directly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home with another 1.9 million are at-risk due to living in a home where another family member is a smoker, though smoking may not be allowed inside the home.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at greater risk of developing asthma, respiratory infections, or death (via SIDS in infants). It is also important to note that children raised by smokers have a greater probability of becoming smokers themselves.

Some of the findings from the study include:

  • Nearly 12.6 percent of African American children live in homes where smoking is permitted, three times the rate of any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Children living in households at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) are far less likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than children from lower-income levels.
  • Approximately 19.4 percent of households in California’s Northern/Sierra region and 14.6 percent of those in the San Joaquin Valley region have someone in the home who smokes.
  • Although Los Angeles doesn’t have the highest percentage of smoking households (10.8 percent) it has a surprisingly high percentage (4.1 percent) of households with children where smoking in the home is allowed.

The study, funded by a grant from First 5 California, noted that the data collected can help identify communities that could benefit from targeted messages concerning the ill effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

Parents look to take care and protect their children from harm. There are many people today who still do not understand the full ramifications of smoking. Even though the general population knows that smoking is dangerous, they do not have enough details to really ingrain that knowledge into their minds. Through continued targeted education, the hope is to make the world tobacco free.

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