Reduction in secondhand smoking associated with fewer cases of middle ear infection among children

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers and colleagues from Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society have found that a reduction in secondhand smoking in American homes was associated with fewer cases of otitis media, the scientific name for middle ear infection. The study appears on January 26, 2011, as an online first article on the website of the journal Tobacco Control.

Otitis media is the leading reason for visits to medical practices and hospitals among U.S. children, with an annual estimated economic burden of $3 billion to $5 billion. Children’s visits for otitis media increased steadily from 9.9 million in 1975 to 24.5 million visits in 1990. However, the researchers found the average annual number of outpatient visits for otitis media in children aged 6 years and younger dropped 5%, and hospital discharges fell by 10% per year from 1993 to 2006. (The researchers note that other factors may have contributed to the decline, including a pneumonia vaccine that was introduced in 2000.)

To determine the number of smoke-free households, the researchers used data from the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey. They found voluntary no-smoking rules in households nearly doubled from 45% in 1993 to 86% in 2006, most likely due to increased awareness of secondhand smoke hazards and a reduction in the number of people smoking in homes.

"Smoke-free rules in homes are extremely important to protect children, given the many adverse effects that secondhand tobacco smoke exposure has on child health," Alpert said.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

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