Mar 10 2011 | Posted by SSSandy

Protecting children from second-hand smoke

Children from across Yorkshire are being asked to help test an initiative that could reduce their exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke.

Researchers from the University of Leeds and the University of York are recruiting schools from across the region to take part in the CLASS trial – Children Learning About Second-hand Smoke.

The CLASS trial, led by Dr Kamran Siddiqi of the University of Leeds and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research programme, will test a school intervention programme, known as 'Smoke Free Homes'. The programme aims to make primary school children more aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke. It is designed to encourage families to introduce smoking restrictions in their homes to protect children and non-smokers from second-hand smoke, and to reduce the uptake of smoking by young people and encourage smokers to quit.

Researchers from a number of UK universities and NHS Trusts will be working on the trial over the next five years.  

Since the introduction of Smoke Free legislation, homes and cars are now the main locations where non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, with children born into deprived households being at particular risk.

Dr Kamran Siddiqi, of the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences at the University of Leeds, said: “Although smoking has been banned in public places, children and non-smoking adults may still be exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke inside homes and cars. Our school-based intervention raises awareness among children of the hazards of second-hand smoke and empowers them to negotiate smoking restrictions with other family members at home.”


The York Trials Unit within the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York is overseeing the organisation of the CLASS trial. It is aiming to recruit at least 50 Yorkshire primary schools in economically deprived communities to take part in the trial, and through these, 5,000 children and their parents or guardians.


The Smoke Free Homes programme will be introduced in half the trial schools on a random basis, with the remaining schools forming a control group. Smoke Free Homes co-ordinators will go into schools, encouraging children to take part in quizzes, games and activities to teach them about healthy lifestyles.


Children's exposure to second-hand smoke before and after the intervention will be assessed at regular intervals through surveys and saliva samples. The samples will be tested for the presence of cotinine, which is found in cigarette smoke.


Helen Tilbrook, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: “Dangers of second-hand smoke in homes and cars, its potential influence on the smoking behaviour of young people and its contribution to health inequalities is widely acknowledged. However, there is a lack of evidence for effective and cost-effective solutions to restrict smoking in homes and cars.


“We will be following up children, who are aged nine to 11 years old at the time of the intervention, for five years and assessing if there is any difference in outcomes between children in the intervention and control groups. For example, we will look at whether they have taken up smoking as teenagers. We will also follow up adults living with these children for six months to determine any differences between the two groups.”