The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation 2005
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Parenting Aggravation  |  Smoking in the Household

Smoking in the Household

Exposure to environmental smoke— from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes— can be a serious health hazard for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia in young children.1 Parents were asked whether anyone in the household used cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco. Overall, almost one-third of children live in households where someone smokes. Exposure to environmental smoke in the household is considerably more common in rural areas: of children in urban areas, 27.5 percent live with a smoker, compared to 37.0 percent of children in large rural areas and 38.1 percent of children in small rural areas.

In general, older children, children with lower family incomes, and White and American Indian/Alaska Native children are most likely to be exposed to smoking in the household. Within most age, income, and racial and ethnic groups, smoking is more common in rural areas. With regard to age, living with a smoker is most common among children aged 12-17 years who live in small rural areas (39.8 percent), while it is least common among children aged 0-5 living in urban areas (24.2 percent).

Some of the greatest disparities across location occur within family income groups. Nearly half of all children with family incomes below the Federal poverty level (FPL) who live in small rural areas are exposed to household smoke, compared to 35.5 percent of children in that income group living in urban areas. These disparities within income groups become smaller as income rises: among children with family incomes of 400 percent of FPL and above, the lowest rate, which occurs in urban areas, is 18.6 percent, compared to a rate of 22.4 percent, which occurs in large rural areas; this is a difference of less than 4 percentage points, compared to a difference of almost 15 percentage points among the lowest income group.

Household smoking rates are greatest in rural areas within every racial and ethnic group with only one exception: among Black children, living with a smoker is least common in small rural areas (27.5 percent) and most common in large rural areas (33.8 percent). With regard to race and ethnicity, American Indian/Alaska Native children in small rural areas are most likely to live with a smoker (46.0 percent) while urban children classified in the other races category and Hispanic children are least likely (13.2 and 20.6 percent, respectively).

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tobacco Information and Prevention Source. Secondhand smoke fact sheet. February 2004.

Graph: Percent of children living in households with a smoker, by location

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This chartbook is based on data from the National Survey of Children's Health. Suggested citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The National Survey of Children's Health 2003. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005.