11:11am Thursday 04 June 2020

Protecting children from second-hand smoke

Smoker holding a cigarette

Researchers from the University of Leeds and the University of York are recruiting schools from across the region to take part in the CLASS trial – Children Learning About Second-hand Smoke.


The CLASS trial, led by Dr Kamran Siddiqi of the University of Leeds and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research programme, will test a school intervention programme, known as ‘Smoke Free Homes’. The programme aims to make primary school children more aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke. It is designed to encourage families to introduce smoking restrictions in their homes to protect children and non-smokers from second-hand smoke, and to reduce the uptake of smoking by young people and encourage smokers to quit.


Researchers from a number of UK universities and NHS Trusts will be working on the trial over the next five years.  


Since the introduction of Smoke Free legislation, homes and cars are now the main locations where non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke, with children born into deprived households being at particular risk.


Dr Kamran Siddiqi, of the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences at the University of Leeds, said: “Although smoking has been banned in public places, children and non-smoking adults may still be exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke inside homes and cars. Our school-based intervention raises awareness among children of the hazards of second-hand smoke and empowers them to negotiate smoking restrictions with other family members at home.”


The York Trials Unit within the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York is overseeing the organisation of the CLASS trial. It is aiming to recruit at least 50 Yorkshire primary schools in economically deprived communities to take part in the trial, and through these, 5,000 children and their parents or guardians.


The Smoke Free Homes programme will be introduced in half the trial schools on a random basis, with the remaining schools forming a control group. Smoke Free Homes co-ordinators will go into schools, encouraging children to take part in quizzes, games and activities to teach them about healthy lifestyles.


Children’s exposure to second-hand smoke before and after the intervention will be assessed at regular intervals through surveys and saliva samples. The samples will be tested for the presence of cotinine, which is found in cigarette smoke.


Helen Tilbrook, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: “Dangers of second-hand smoke in homes and cars, its potential influence on the smoking behaviour of young people and its contribution to health inequalities is widely acknowledged. However, there is a lack of evidence for effective and cost-effective solutions to restrict smoking in homes and cars.


“We will be following up children, who are aged nine to 11 years old at the time of the intervention, for five years and assessing if there is any difference in outcomes between children in the intervention and control groups. For example, we will look at whether they have taken up smoking as teenagers. We will also follow up adults living with these children for six months to determine any differences between the two groups.”


For further information:
Paula Gould, University of Leeds press office: Tel 0113 343 8059, email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

  1. The project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research (NIHR PHR) programme (project number 09/3000/05). Visit the PHR programme website for more information at www.phr.nihr.ac.uk
  2. Researchers at the University of Leeds, the University of York, NHS Leeds, NHS Wakefield District, the Department of Health, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham will be working on the CLASS trial. The York Trials Unit at the University of York is overseeing the organisation of the CLASS trial.
  3. Second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard to non-smokers, especially children. Tobacco smoke contains 4000 toxic chemicals and does not have a safe exposure level. Living with a smoking adult is the key determinant of exposure to second-hand smoke. It has been suggested that 45 per cent of children in England and Wales live with at least one smoker in their homes. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, four out of 10 young people (13-15 years) are exposed to second-hand smoke at home. 
  4. The National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research (NIHR PHR) programme was launched in autumn 2008. It commissions research to evaluate public health interventions, providing new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider effect of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. The scope of the programme is multi-disciplinary and broad covering a range of public health interventions. Visit www.phr.nihr.ac.uk
  5. The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility.  The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training.  Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients. www.nihr.ac.uk

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