New network to explore ways to help reduce smoking in the home

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A multidisciplinary team of experts is seeking to understand how best to support people to create a smoke-free home, given the health risks particularly to pregnant women, babies and children.

The University of Stirling and University College Dublin (UCD) are leading the new network of researchers, third sector groups and policy partners, with a view to informing the development of future interventions and support mechanisms to help reduce smoking in the home.

Dr Rachel O’Donnell, of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH) at the University of Stirling, and Dr Kate Frazer, of the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems at University College Dublin, are Principal Investigators of the Smoke-free Homes Innovation Network’s (SHINE).

Dr O’Donnell said: “There is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure and substantial evidence exists of the health harms associated with exposure during pregnancy and in infancy and childhood. We know that second-hand smoke increases the risk of respiratory diseases – and that creating a smoke-free home increases the likelihood of quit attempts and decreases the likelihood that children go on to become smokers themselves.

“Our network brings together a multidisciplinary team – including tobacco and social science expertise – and aims to broaden knowledge and understanding as to why people in the UK and Ireland continue to smoke in the home and what can be done to support them to create a smoke-free home. We hope to develop thinking on the issue and drive forward new collaborative work that will inform future policy, research and practice.”

Dr Rachel O'Donnell

Dr Rachel O'Donnell is one of the researchers leading the new network.

Previous research has shown second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure varies significantly with socio-economic circumstances. In Scotland, 15 per cent of children living in poorer areas are exposed to SHS, compared to one per cent of those living in wealthier areas – and similar patterns have been observed in other parts of the UK and Ireland. However, there is no recommended approach to tackle this inequality, which experts believe may have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the UK, recent YouGov data suggests that 12 per cent of smokers living with children reported smoking indoors more than they did before lockdown. While most parents are motivated to protect the health of their children, social, economic and environmental factors can make creating a smoke-free home more challenging.

The SHINE network will take account of these wider challenges to understand the best interventions and support mechanisms for smokers, and any barriers to smoke-free homes, particularly for people living in less wealthy areas. The team will address why, when and where people in the UK and Ireland continue to smoke within the home, what prevents them from creating a smoke-free home and what can be done to support them in making changes. They will explore exposure reduction strategies within homes – such as smoking at the back door, with the window open, or with the cooker extraction fan on.

Dr O’Donnell added: “The SHINE network will consider how future interventions may be tailored to a social environmental context – which is vital in increasing the number of smoke-free homes across the UK and Ireland and protecting the health of smokers and their families.”

Dr O’Donnell and Dr Frazer will co-lead the network and will be supported by: Professor Kate Hunt and Dr Sean Semple (both ISMH at Stirling); Professor Thilo Kroll, Dr Deirdre McGillicuddy, Professor Cecily Kelleher, Dr Therese McDonnell and Professor Patricia Fitzpatrick (all UCD); Professor Graham Moore (Cardiff University); Professor Kamran Siddiqi (University of York); Professor Laurence Moore (University of Glasgow and Visiting Professor at UCD); Dr Maria Duaso (Kings College London); Professor Jamie Pearce (University of Edinburgh); and Dr Miriam Byrne (National University of Ireland Galway).

The network is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Irish Research Council.

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