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50% allow home smoking

News Features
Hand holding a cigarette

Survey reveals 50% allow smoking to take place in their homes

Michael Duffy

A special survey conducted by Health Service Executive West has revealed that half of private homes in the Mayo, Galway and Roscommon area allow smoking to take place indoors, but that awareness has increased among the public since the introduction of the smoking ban in the workplace in 2004.
The report, entitled ‘Smoking in the Home: Attitudes and Perceptions and the Impact of the 2004 Irish Smoking Ban’, said it was clear that a reduction of 8% from 58% who allowed smoking in the home in a survey conducted in 2004 meant the ban had had ‘a positive effect’.
However, the report suggested there was still room for much improvement and that smoking in the home remains a ‘significant public health issue’.
Compiled after face to face interviews were undertaken with a statistical representative sample of 425 respondents in their own homes, the report also found that those allowing smoking in selected areas in the house reduced from 29% to 25%. Significantly more respondents from households from lower socio-economic groups than higher socio-economic groups allowed smoking in the home both before (66% compared to 46%) and after (56% compared to 44%) the introduction of the workplace smoking ban.
Mr Colm Byrne, Health Promotion Services, HSE West, and one of the authors of the report, suggests that a review of initiatives that encourage ‘no smoking’ in the home should be undertaken. 
“We are also working towards raising awareness of the risks of passive smoking and the dangers of smoke migration from room to room. After the ban, the majority of respondents also perceived that smoking in the home posed a high health risk, both to themselves and others in the home. This demonstrates the effectiveness of public policy in reducing smoking in the home,” stated Mr Byrne.
The survey also revealed that after the smoking ban, 39% of households with children under 15 still allowed smoking in the home. Based on the study findings and the number of households in the study area, it is estimated that there are 61,901 households in the HSE Western Area that allow smoking in the home, with 21 cigarettes a day smoked on average in these homes.
Despite the fact that extending current legislation to also cover smoking in the home could be problematic and may not be acceptable to the public, the report also suggests that the merits of introducing some additional legislation warrants further investigation.
“For example, legislation banning smoking in multi occupied buildings by families could be considered, it states. In the USA, these have been the subject of a number of private litigation  cases. Initiatives should also be developed to encourage ‘no smoking’ in the home setting. Private households that have smoking rules adopted by household members can significantly reduce second hand smoke exposure among children, reduce the risk of adolescents being smokers, and also help smokers to quit,” the report states, quoting from a survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services in the USA in 2006.
Another interesting point made in the HSE West report is that over a third of respondents who allowed people to smoke in their home would actually prefer if they didn’t. The main reason these respondents gave for allowing people to smoke (85%) was a lack of assertiveness skills (eg to be sociable). The report concludes by stating that a media campaign focusing on a concept that ‘it’s OK for you to ask me not to smoke in your house’ could also be considered.