Research explores whether free Nicotine Replacement Therapy can cut children’s exposure to second-hand smoke in the home

Back to news
Smoking in the home

A new research study aiming to tackle the number of children breathing in second-hand smoke at home is launching in Lanarkshire.

The study, which is being led by researchers at the University of Stirling in partnership with NHS Lanarkshire and the University of Glasgow, will see free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) offered to parents and carers for 12 weeks.

Dr Rachel O’Donnell, of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, said: “Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is particularly common in lower-income families, with 12% of children reporting daily exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in the home, compared to less than 1% in higher income homes.

“This project will see free NRT provided through the post to people who smoke who live with at least one child aged five years or over.

“We know from previous work in this area, that this type of initiative can help people to do better than they thought they could in terms of reducing their smoking – with participants in similar programmes often reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke by 50% or more.

“Smoking is highly addictive, and we know that people often want to quit but aren’t quite ready to completely give it up. We hope that this research study will take the pressure off participants and take those who smoke closer to thinking about quitting – supporting them to take that first, important step on the journey to a smoke-free home.”

Karen Mather and Dr Rachel O'Donnell. Image of Karen Mather and Dr Rachel O’Donnell attached.

Karen Mather, Tobacco Control Team Leader, NHS Lanarkshire, said: “As part of our commitment to a smoke-free future for children, we’re developing initiatives that work with families to reduce the barriers they face to create a smoke-free home.

“Second-hand smoke is harmful to everyone’s health, even pets, but it’s especially harmful to babies, children, and pregnant women.

“By working with the University of Stirling and the University of Glasgow, we can further support families who may not feel ready to quit or to contact our Quit Your Way service.

“The NRT provided will support those who smoke and prevent them experiencing nicotine withdrawals. Most importantly, it removes the risks of children’s exposure to second-hand smoke.”


Second-hand smoke is known to be especially harmful for children as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Children who live in a household where at least one person smokes are more likely to develop asthma and chest infections – like pneumonia and bronchitis.

The study is funded by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office and researchers will start recruiting in the autumn with 100 participants set to take part in the pilot over its 30 months. As well as free NRT, participants will also be offered regular telephone support.

The team will take saliva samples from the young person in the home before and after the 12-week study, to measure changes in how much second-hand smoke they have breathed in.

You may also be interested in