05:17pm Thursday 16 July 2020

UW Study: Veterans Lag Behind in Adopting Smoke-Free Home Rules

Smoke-free home rules are policies adopted by household members or landlords that restrict or ban cigarette smoking inside the home. According to the report published online by the American Journal of Public Health, because these home rules aren’t enforced by laws, they are an important indicator of changes in social norms within the home “regarding the acceptability of smoking.”

Smoke-free home rules have the potential to improve public health by increasing cessation, reducing relapse risk, and removing the risk of secondhand smoke for other occupants. The Surgeon General has reported that there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure.

According to the study, despite the increase in smoke-free homes since 2001 to 2011 (from 67.2 percent to 83.9 percent), veterans lag behind the non-veteran population in having smoke-free home rules (64 percent in 2001 to 79.7 percent in 2011). This finding, combined with the higher rates of smoking among veterans compared to the general population may contribute to a prior finding that vets are more likely to report poor or fair health and experience two or more chronic conditions than their non-military peers.

“We’re very interested in veterans, because as a population, they are at a higher risk for tobacco use,” said study author Xiao Zhang, a post-doctoral fellow at the UW department of population health sciences. “What we found is that overall, the use of smoke-free homes in veteran and non-veteran populations has increased; however, for non-veterans, the increase is much sharper. Over time, the veteran population has continued to lag behind non-veterans, and that health disparity gap has widened. This population is in need of an intervention to make better use of smoke-free home rules.”

Zhang suggests that since many veterans use VA health care, it might be helpful to have VA staff ask veterans about their smoke-free home rules; ask them whether or not they allow smoking in the home; and if they do allow smoking, staff could provide some education or counseling regarding the benefits of a smoke-free home.

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

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