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Nearly 23 Million Kids Live With Adult Smokers

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: March 14, 2007

About one in three U.S. children aged 18 or younger may face an increased risk of respiratory and other conditions because they live with at least one smoker, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Secondhand smoke is particularly harmful to children, health experts say. In addition to increasing the risk of serious lung disease during a child's first 2 years of life, secondhand smoke can aggravate asthma symptoms and make children more likely to cough, wheeze, and/or suffer a middle-ear problem.

AHRQ also found:

  • White children (34 percent) and Black children (31 percent) are more likely than Hispanic children (24 percent) to live with an adult smoker.
  • Poor children are almost twice as likely to live with an adult who smokes than are children in families with higher incomes—40 percent versus 22 percent.
  • The likelihood that a child will live with an adult smoker decreases as the education level of the adults in the family increases. Only about 25 percent of children who lived with an adult who had 13 or more years of education faced the issue of secondhand smoke at home, versus nearly 40 percent for children in families where no adult had that much education.
  • Where a child lives also plays a role. Roughly 36 percent of those in the Midwest and 33 percent of Southern children live with at least one adult who smokes, compared with 28 percent of the children in the Northeast and 25 percent of those in the West.
  • Children who have asthma are equally as likely to live with a smoker as children who do not have the condition.

The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the nation's most complete survey of how Americans use and pay for health care, including their health insurance coverage.

For more information on this AHRQ News and Numbers summary, access Asthma Treatment and Management among the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2004, MEPS Statistical Brief No. 152.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of March 2007.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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