Pediatrician Beliefs about the Harms of Thirdhand Smoke

A recent study evaluated Turkish pediatricians’ beliefs about thirdhand smoke, the chemical residue left behind after someone smokes. Knowing what children’s doctors understand about thirdhand smoke is important for how pediatricians may educate and advise parents about protecting children from exposure. This information can also be used to update medical school training for topics about thirdhand smoke that are less understood by pediatricians.

Thirdhand smoke sticks to household surfaces, such as walls, ceilings, dinnerware, and toys, and embeds in fabrics such as carpets, curtains, and furniture. It can be transported on surfaces from place to place, and it settles in dust. People can absorb it through their skin or ingest it when they come into contact with it. When it releases into the air, people can inhale it. Young children have the highest risk of thirdhand smoke exposure because they tend to be in contact with more household surfaces and dust and often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.

To learn about Turkish pediatricians how understand thirdhand smoke, the researchers used the Beliefs About Third-Hand Smoke (BATHS) scale. This survey lists statements about thirdhand smoke, such as “Breathing air in a room today in which people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children,” and has participants rank how much they agree with each statement.

After 301 pediatricians completed the online survey, the researchers analyzed the answers based on different demographic characteristics of the doctors. They found that pediatricians who do not smoke, do not have children, are female, or are single have the strongest beliefs in the harms of thirdhand smoke.

A white postcard from Turkey says that Turkish pediatricians in research hospitals have stronger beliefs about thirdhand smoke.

The researchers also found that pediatricians who work in university or research hospitals or are resident trainees have stronger beliefs about the harms of thirdhand smoke compared to pediatricians working in other hospitals or as specialists. These trainees and the doctors working in university hospitals are likely learning about new medical ideas – such as thirdhand smoke – more frequently than doctors who have been in the field a long time. This up-to-date awareness may explain why pediatricians in university hospitals or in training have stronger beliefs about thirdhand smoke.

To best protect children from thirdhand smoke, children’s doctors must believe that thirdhand smoke is harmful and worth discussing with their patients’ parents. Based on this study, certain pediatricians already do understand that thirdhand smoke exposure is harmful. By focusing thirdhand smoke education on pediatricians who have been practicing over five years, who smoke, and who have families, more children can be protected.

Click here to read the research study.

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