Prevalence of and Characteristics Associated with Persistent Smoking among Australian Mothers and Fathers: Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

Article excerpt


The study aimed to examine the prevalence, patterns and characteristics of continued tobacco smoking among Australian parents. The study utilised data from Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Smoking was reported by 20% of mothers and 25% of fathers at Wave 1 (with a slight decrease at Wave 2). Continued smoking was more likely among parents who were younger, less educated, reported problematic alcohol use, more financial problems and had a partner who smoked. The study estimated at the Australian population level, 29,649 children under the age of 1, and 36,208 children aged 4-5 years live in a household where smoking occurs inside. The prevalence of parental smoking remains considerable, despite an increasing awareness of the adverse effects. Reducing the number of adults who smoke inside the home with dependent children is an important public health concern in urgent need of attention.

Keywords: tobacco smoking; parent; longitudinal; prevalence; risk factors


Smoking in pregnancy is a major public health issue. Adverse health effects for both the mother and foetus have consistently been identified including pregnancy complications and poor birth outcomes such as placental abruption, low birthweight, neonatal death and pre-term birth (Kallen, 2001; Laws, Grayson, & Sullivan, 2006). Over the last decade there has been increasing awareness that the risks associated with parental smoking extend beyond pregnancy to the early years of life. Smoking can also be a source of ongoing health concern for mothers who continue to smoke (DiFranza, Aligne, & Weitzman, 2004). Likewise, secondhand smoke exposure or passive smoking has been round to increase the risk of a number of health conditions including asthma, respiratory infections, eye and nose irritations, middle ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2008; DiFranza et al., 2004; Lee, Gaynor, & Trapido, 2003; Pattenden et al., 2006; Rushton, 2004; Tutka, Wielosz, & Zatonski, 2002). Individuals are most susceptible to these risks if tobacco exposure is within enclosed and confined spaces, and children are particularly vulnerable as their airways are smaller and their immune system is under-developed (NSW Health, 2008).

Recent Australian data collected at a state (NSW and Queensland) and national level suggest that 17-21% of women continue to smoke during pregnancy (Laws et al., 2006; Mohsin & Bauman, 2005; Wills & Coory, 2008), with little change in prevalence noted from 2002-2007 (Laws & Sullivan, 2009). These rates are particularly high considering they are comparable to recent estimates of smoking in the general population (18%) (AIHW, 2008). Comparisons of smoking in pregnancy and among age-matched peers in the general population suggest a third of women may quit before or early in pregnancy (Mohsin & Bauman, 2005). The assessment of relapse rates postpartum at a population level is limited. While some studies have round that around a hall of all women who quit smoking during pregnancy relapse within a year (Lelong, Kaminski, Saurel-Cubizolles, & Bouvier-Colle, 2001; Polanska, Hanke, & Sobala, 2005), other studies have noted a decrease in smoking prevalence postpartum (Giglia, Binns, Alfonso, & Zhan, 2007). These inconsistencies are likely to be due to differences in the length of follow-up. For example, the study by Giglia and colleagues (2007) reported smoking prevalence at 10 weeks postpartum compared to 6 months postpartum (for the Lelong et al., (2001) study) and 1 year postpartum (for the Polanska et al., (2005) study). Numerous studies have identified that a partner's smoking behaviour is the strongest predictor of either smoking continuation or cessation during pregnancy, as well as postpartum smoking relapse (Everett et al., 2005; Giglia et al., 2007; Lelong et al. …


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