A feasibility study that provided parents who smoke with tailored information about smoke levels in their own homes has produced positive results.
The new approach has the potential to help parents who want to protect their children from tobacco smoke. The study is part of the REFRESH project, a partnership between ASH Scotland and the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. REFRESH aims to reduce children’s exposure to second hand smoke in the home.
The REFRESH study showed that while parents will naturally want to protect their children, many are not clear about how tobacco smoke affects them3. In addition some professionals working with children and families are not confident in supporting parents and carers to change their smoking behaviour.
At the invitation of mothers who smoked and had children under the age of six, the REFRESH team set up an air quality monitoring device in their homes. This gave a measurement of smoke levels in the living room over a 24 hour period, and produced a graph which showed peaks whenever a cigarette was smoked. The results were then discussed with the mothers.
The intention of the study was not to challenge parents to quit smoking, but to discuss the smoke levels that were measured in their home, and encourage them to think about ways in which they could reduce their children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. Focusing attention on the quality of the air at home, rather than on the smoker, meant that parents welcomed the approach and were empowered to think about the practical changes they could make as to how, when and where they and others smoked in order to protect their children’s health.
Many mothers expressed surprise at the high levels of tobacco smoke measured in their home. They were also shocked at how long the harmful particles lingered in the air after a cigarette was extinguished, and at how tobacco smoke spreads through a home. In some cases, parents had already taken steps to protect their children, such as smoking in a different room or opening a door or window, but they learned from the readings that these steps gave their children far less protection than they assumed.
Parents involved in the study have now suggested a list of hints and tips to help other parents make their homes smoke-free, such as keeping the ashtray outside, asking their kids to help make no-smoking signs and discussing plans with family and friends to ask for their support. The hints and tips are available here