New research reveals that children who live with smokers may end up in the doctor’s office or hospital more frequently than kids not exposed to tobacco smoke.

For the research abstract, “Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Health Care Utilization among Children Nationwide,” researchers analyzed 2011-2012 data from the National Survey on Children’s Health, which is conducted by the CDC’s┬áNational Center for Health Statistics. They looked at patterns of health care utilization among children ranging in age from newborn to 17 who were living with smokers compared with those who not exposed to tobacco smoke at home.

Results showed a total of 24% of the 95,677 children in the study, corresponding to a weighted total of 17.6 million children across the United States, lived with smokers. About 5% of the children lived with someone who smokes inside the home, equivalent to a weighted sum of 3.6 million US children.

Researchers said that children who lived with a smoker or who had exposure to tobacco smoke inside the home were significantly more likely to have had any medical care visit, including sick care. At the same time, researchers said, they were considerably less likely to have had any dental care visits.

Lead author Ashley Merianos, PhD, a certified health education specialist and assistant professor in the School of Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, said several previous studies already established that tobacco smoke causes physical health consequences in children, including respiratory symptoms, increased infections and asthma flare-ups. Fewer studies had examined whether tobacco smoke exposure translates into more frequent pediatric health care visits.

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