School Absentees More Commonly Come from Smoking Households

by on February 24th, 2015
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Based on information from a new study published within Pediatrics Journal, when there are one or more smokers in a household, the children are more likely to be absent from school. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital reported that kids living with one or more smokers generally miss more time from school than children who live in smoke-free homes.

Smoking has also been found to lead to lost wages for people as well. Past studies have looked into the impact that smoking has on children in the home. A new study from the Texas Tech University Health Science Center found that children specifically suffering from asthma and are exposed to smoke in the home have a much higher risk for developing respiratory type illnesses which would lead to being absent from school off and of throughout adolescence. Common respiratory conditions that have been directly linked with secondhand smoke exposure include chest colds, ear infections, asthma, bronchitis, and many others.

This newest national study analyzed data which was collected from parents or caregivers of a total of 3,087 children between the ages of 6 and 11. It was found that nearly 14% of all children (totaling 2.6 million children on average), lived in a home with at least one smoker. Children who lived with only one active smoker was generally absent 1.06 more times than other children from school, while children who lived with more than one smoker averaged 1.54 more days lost when compared to children from smoke-free households.

Exposure to secondhand smoke most commonly causes chest colds and ear infections among children. These types of conditions made up 24% of absences from school from children who lived in a one smoker home, while 34% missed school among those living in multiple-smoker homes.

Unlike other studies that have connected childhood asthma with secondhand smoke exposure within the home, this study does not bother discussing that association but rather notes that the population in the study may not have involved nearly enough children who had asthma to make that particular correlation important.

To add to the health issues that kids face when living in a home with smokers, lead author of the study Douglas Levy, from the Mongan Institute for Health Policy, notes that absences due to smoking actually result in about $227 million for lost wages along with time taken up by caregivers or employers. This should be considered a rather significant loss, especially when considering that nearly half of all households in the study that involved smoking were of low income.

Obviously we do not need to discuss the downfalls to a child being absent from school, but we will quickly anyway. When children miss time from school, they risk academically falling behind and therefore, children living in smoking homes not only face health risks but also academic risks. At the same time that children are suffering the smoker parent or caregiver are facing direct economic challenges. Overall, when children are living in homes with smokers, the negative impacts can be rather significant.


Levy, DE. Et al. School absenteeism among children living with smokers. Pediatrics. 2011; doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1067.

Stapleton, M. et al. Smoking and asthma. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2011.

Mitchell, D. 2011. Absence from school higher when kids live with smokers.

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