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Prev Med. 2016 Apr;85:42-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.01.003. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

Assessment of tobacco smoke exposure in the pediatric emergency department.

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Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, 100535 E. Dakota Ave., Denver, CO 80247, USA. Electronic address:
School of Human Services, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210068, Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA. Electronic address:
Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, MLC 5041, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA. Electronic address:
Division of Emergency Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, MLC 2008, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA. Electronic address:



Tobacco smoke exposure causes significant childhood morbidity and is associated with a multitude of conditions. National organizations recommend tobacco smoke exposure screening at all pediatric clinical encounters. Data regarding tobacco smoke exposure screening in the pediatric emergency department is sparse, although children with tobacco smoke exposure-associated conditions commonly present to this setting. We aimed to determine the frequency and outcome of tobacco smoke exposure screening in the pediatric emergency department, and assess associated sociodemographic/clinical characteristics.


This retrospective review included pediatric patients presenting to a large pediatric emergency department in Cincinnati, Ohio between 2012 and 2013. Variables extracted included: age, sex, race/ethnicity, insurance, child's tobacco smoke exposure status, triage acuity, diagnosis, and disposition. Regression analyses examined predictors of tobacco smoke exposure screening and tobacco smoke exposure status.


A total of 116,084 children were included in the analysis. Mean child age was 6.20years (SD±5.6); 52% were male. Nearly half of the children in the study did not undergo tobacco smoke screening; only 60% of children with tobacco smoke exposure-related illnesses were screened. Predictors of tobacco smoke exposure screening were: younger age, male, African American, non-commercial insurance, high acuity, tobacco smoke exposure-related diagnoses and non-intensive care admission. Of children screened for tobacco smoke exposure, 28% were positive. Children more likely to screen positive were non-Hispanic, had non-commercial insurance, and had tobacco smoke exposure-related diagnoses. NonAfrican American children triaged as low acuity were more likely to have tobacco smoke exposure, yet were less likely to be screened.


Despite national recommendations, current tobacco smoke exposure screening rates are low and fail to identify at-risk children. Pediatric emergency department visits for tobacco smoke exposure-associated conditions are common, thus further research is needed to develop and assess standardized tobacco smoke exposure screening tools/interventions in this setting.


Emergency department; Parent; Secondhand smoke; Smoking; Tobacco; Tobacco control; Tobacco smoke

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