Parental Risk Perceptions of Child Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

Laura Rosen; Inessa Kostjukovsky


BMC Public Health. 2015;15(90) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background Tobacco smoke exposure harms children and adults. Yet, 40% of children worldwide are exposed to tobacco smoke in their homes. Such widespread parental failure to protect children is puzzling, and may be related to risk perceptions. No consensus exists about how to measure parental risk perceptions of tobacco smoke exposure.

Methods The objective of this research was to study Parental Risk Perceptions of child Exposure to Tobacco Smoke (PRETS) using various dimensions of risk perceptions: likelihood of harm, susceptibility to harm, and severity of harm. We aimed to estimate PRETS and identify correlates of PRETS, and assess the association between PRETS, parental smoking status, and home smoking behaviors. We conducted 132 face-to-face interviews with parents of infants.

Results Parents who smoked regularly believed that infant tobacco smoke exposure was less dangerous than did other parents (p = .0158). Birthplace of parent was significantly associated with risk perception (p = .0019); parents of Russian origin believed the overall risk to be less than did those born elsewhere. Smoking status, ethnicity, and employment status were associated with smoking in the home. The relationship between smoking behavior in the home and risk perceptions was complex, and may have been modified by ethnicity.

Conclusions Parental risk perceptions concerning child exposure to tobacco smoke are associated with smoking behavior and ethnicity. Understanding how to measure risk perceptions, and identifying risk perception dimensions which differ between families with and without home smoking bans, may contribute to the development of effective interventions to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke exposure.