About one out of every four parents with small children responds to interventions to help them quit smoking, which is slightly better than the one in five parents who would quit without any special help, according to a new study.
Researchers say the results should encourage paediatricians to take advantage of their frequent encounters with parents, and try to get them to start a smoking cessation programme.
"Because paediatricians can make use of the teachable moment of a child's vulnerability to tobacco smoke, they may provide added benefit to helping this group of smokers quit," said lead author Dr Jonathan Winickoff, a professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Dr Winickoff and his colleagues pooled data from 18 different studies of smoking cessation programmes aimed at more than 7 000 parents.
Hospital intervention helps parents
The programmes involved either medications, counselling or self-help materials, or some combination of these approaches.
Most of the studies included an intervention in the hospital, a well-baby clinic or a paediatrician’s office.
The 18 studies followed parents for anywhere between several months and more than a year, and measured whether those who received the smoking interventions were more likely to quit than parents who didn't get any additional help.
Only four of the studies found that the interventions improved the parents' quit rates.
Overall, 23.1% of the parents in the intervention arms successfully quit compared to 18.4% in the control groups.
Aim to get all parents to quit smoking
In studies that included medications, parents were three times as likely to quit as parents who didn't take the drugs.
The authors write in their report that the gains from the smoking cessation programmes were modest, but Dr Winickoff said they are worth pursuing.
"These are short-term studies," said Dr Winickoff. "There are stages of change and parents' readiness to quit. Over time we will enable almost every parent to quit smoking."
"We know it takes multiple attempts over time," said Dr Sue Curry, dean of the University Of Iowa College Of Public Health, who was not involved in this study.
Paediatric clinic helps with quitting
"To me the study says that we need to have realistic expectations, and we need to make sure we celebrate the successes of smokers that go through the process," told Dr Curry.
One of Dr Curry's studies was included in the current meta-analysis, which was published online in Paediatrics.
Her research found that mothers who were given a quitting guide along with in-person advice and phone counselling from nurses were twice as likely to quit as mothers who didn't receive this intervention.
Her study originated in a paediatric clinic, which Dr Winickoff said is a good place to intervene with parents' smoking habits, given that parents of young children frequent the paediatrician’s office for routine check-ups and vaccinations.
Smoking bad for kids health
Dr Winickoff added that helping parents to quit smoking could have an enormous impact not only on their own health, but on the health of their children.
Another paper in the same issue of Paediatrics, for instance, found that children whose parents smoked during the pregnancy have thicker arterial walls.
Smoking is "associated with pneumonia, asthma, developmental delay, school absenteeism, dental decay, sudden infant death, hearing loss and a range of other illnesses that are too numerous to list," Dr Winickoff said.
(Reuters Health, December 2011)
Tobacco and your body
Ways to quit smoking