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Tobacco smoke exposure in hospitalised Aboriginal children in Central Australia


Dr Rob Roseby, Department of Paediatrics, Alice Springs Hospital, PO Box 2234, Alice Springs, NT 0871 Australia. Fax: +61 8 8951 6976; email:


Aim:  Child exposure to tobacco smoke is detrimental to health. Australian Aboriginal people have a higher rate of cigarette smoking compared with the national average. Thus, we aim to measure the proportion of children admitted to Alice Springs Hospital who are exposed to tobacco smoke at home, to correlate this with prevalence of regular cough and gauge smokers' interest in quitting.

Method:  A questionnaire was administered verbally to carers of children admitted to Alice Springs Hospital, November 2006 to January 2007. Main outcome measures were presence of a smoker at home and presence of a regular cough. We measured the interest of carers and speculated interest of other smokers in quitting. Eighty-two questionnaires were completed (60% of children admitted during the study period). Eighty-nine per cent of children were Aboriginal.

Results:  As so few non-Aboriginal children were included in the study, their results were not included in analysis. Sixty-four per cent of children lived with at least one smoker. Seventy per cent of children exposed to smoke at home lived with more than one smoker. Point prevalence of reported regular cough was 33%. Forty-three per cent of children who lived with at least one smoker had regular cough compared with 13% in those who did not (P= 0.035). The rate ratio for regular cough when living with a smoker versus when not living with a smoker was 2.77 (95% confidence interval: 1.06–7.23). Forty-two per cent of the smokers expressed interest in quitting.

Conclusion:  It is concerning that the majority of hospitalised children were exposed to tobacco smoke at home, while fewer than half of smokers were interested in quitting.

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