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Study: Kids Who Live With Smokers Miss More School

A new study finds that kids exposed to second-hand smoke at home get sick and miss school more often than children who live in nonsmoking homes, reports.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study found that children who live with one or more smokers missed an average of one to two days more per school year than other kids. Living with multiple smokers led to more illnesses and more school days missed, researchers said. From CNN:

The research suggests that families could reduce absenteeism by 24 to 34 % if smoking was eliminated from their households.

According to the study, about one third of children in the United States live with a smoker. Among children aged 3 to 11, at least 56% have detectable levels of a chemical called serum cotinine, an indication of tobacco smoke exposure. Cotinine is a breakdown of nicotine and can be measured by analyzing levels in the blood, urine or saliva. Researchers say this establishes a link between household smoking and two specific respiratory illnesses.

"Kids living with people smoking in the home were more likely to have ear infections and chest colds," Dr. Douglas Levy, the study's principal investigator and Assistant in Health Care Policy at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy said. "Among kids who were living with smokers, a quarter to one-third of the days they missed from school can be attributed to the fact that they live with someone who smokes in the home."

Levy also pointed out that second-hand smoke creates a financial burden for parents who must miss work to stay home with sick kids. "When kids are home from school, particularly young kids, the cost overall is $227 million dollars [in lost pay] per year," Levy told CNN.

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