September 8, 2006–Parental smoking is a pediatrician’s business, experts say, yet many are reluctant to tell parents to stop smoking and offer little support for efforts to quit, a new study suggests.
The study in the latest issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior found that 80% of 153 Ohio pediatricians surveyed said they asked parents about tobacco use and advised them to stop, but involvement generally ended there.

Only 16% said they recommend nicotine replacement therapy to parents. Yet according to an earlier survey, “85% of parents believed it was acceptable for their child’s physician to recommend such an adjunct for quitting smoking,” the authors wrote.

“Pediatricians felt that ‘the parent is not the patient,’” said lead researcher Joseph Dake, PhD, an assistant professor at University of Toledo in Ohio. “Our take is that their smoking status is one of the most important environmental factors in the health of the child.”

An estimated 5,000 children in the United States die yearly from tobacco exposure, and children with household smokers miss an average of 6 extra school days, according to the study.

Past research has shown that children whose parents smoke are more likely to have wheezing, asthma and bronchitis; sudden infant death syndrome; middle ear disease; andcognitive and behavioral problems. The July Surgeon General’s Report concluded that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.