Most non-smoking mothers recognize the need to protect sick children from smoking husbands, but persuading their spouse to quit isn’t always an option, according to research posted on the Journal of Advanced Nursing website on May 8. Researchers at The University of Hong Kong surveyed the mothers of 1,483 children admitted to four major hospitals to see if a health educational initiative would help them to protect their children from passive smoking. None of the mothers smoked, but all of the children’s fathers did.
The study, by the Department of Nursing Studies and the School of Public Health, found that although most of the mothers realized the importance of protecting their child’s health, family tensions and the need to maintain marital harmony often got in the way.
The mothers reported that 86% of their husbands smoked at home, with 54% of the total smoking when their child was around and 32% smoking away from the child. The remaining 14% didn’t smoke while they were at home. This was despite the fact that half of the children suffered from respiratory problems— putting them at high-risk from passive smoking—and 60% of the total sample had been admitted to the hospital more than once. The majority of the children involved in the research were under 10 years old and the average age was just under five years old.
“We divided the mothers into two groups,” explains lead author Dr Sophia Chan, Head of the Department of Nursing Studies. “The education group of 752 mothers received health advice from nurses, purpose-designed booklets, a no-smoking sticker and a telephone reminder a week later. The control group of 731 mothers did not. Although we found this initiative had some short-term benefits, many of the mothers found it difficult to persuade their husbands to quit smoking and the education group were more likely to take evasive action, such as moving the child out of the room,” she says. “With an increasing number of countries worldwide introducing smoking bans in public areas such as bars and restaurants, there are fears that more parents will smoke at home and that this will have an even greater effect on children.”