This site is intended for health professionals only

Disadvantaged households need more smoking support

Many UK children are at risk of health problems caused by exposure to second-hand smoke in the home, with poorer households more likely to need support.

With smoking an increasing drain on NHS resources, and the need for better support for smokers to quit to improve health outcomes for adults and children, the Department of Health recognised a 'harm reduction' approach to tackle the problem in its 2010 Tobacco Control Strategy. In place of an attempt to quit completely, smokers are encouraged to take small steps towards reducing their smoking and the harmful effects of tobacco on themselves and their family.

This can involve the use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help support smokers during times when they would prefer not, or are unable to, smoke, such as in the home around children, or in public places.

Research carried out by the University of Nottingham, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, looked at the concept of harm reduction in deprived families where children might be exposed to levels of smoke in the home.

Interviews were carried out with families accessing Sure Start services, of which 82% were unemployed, and 62% had two or more smokers per household.

The researchers found that the majority of participants had used NRT to support previous quit attempts, but that, in general, attitudes towards temporary abstinence were negative, as people felt they would rather wait until they were in a position to give up completely.

The study also highlighted that misconceptions exist around the use of NRT, with side-effects and lack of support during treatment stated as two of the reasons for failed quit attempts.

The study findings suggested that further information on the effects of second-hand smoke is required, but that providing demonstrable evidence of the impact that caregivers' smoking is having on their children's health is more likely to be effective in the long term.

The research was presented today by lead author, Laura Jones from the University of Nottingham, as part of the Smoking Cessation UK conference held in London.