Secondhand Smoke Exposure Reduction After NICU Discharge: Results of a Randomized Trial



      Premature infants are at high risk for respiratory disease, and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure further increases their risk for developing respiratory illness and asthma. Yet, SHS exposure remains problematic in this vulnerable population. Our objective was to evaluate the effects of brief asthma education plus motivational interviewing counseling on reducing SHS exposure and improving respiratory outcomes in premature infants compared to asthma education alone.


      Caregivers and their infants ≤32 weeks' gestational age were enrolled after discharge from a neonatal intensive care unit in Rochester, New York, from 2007 to 2011. Participants (N = 165, 61% Medicaid insurance, 35% Black, 19% Hispanic, 59% male) were stratified by infant SHS exposure and randomly assigned to treatment or comparison groups.


      Caregivers in the treatment group reported significantly more home smoking bans (96% vs 84%, P = .03) and reduced infant contact with smokers after the intervention (40% vs 58%, P = .03), but these differences did not persist long term. At study end (8 months after neonatal intensive care unit discharge), treatment group infants showed significantly greater reduction in salivary cotinine versus comparison (−1.32 ng/mL vs −1.08 ng/mL, P = .04), but no significant differences in other clinical outcomes.


      A community-based intervention incorporating motivational interviewing and asthma education may be helpful in reducing SHS exposure of premature infants in the short term. Further efforts are needed to support sustained protections for this high-risk group and ultimately, prevent acute and chronic respiratory morbidity. Strategies for successfully engaging families during this stressful period warrant attention.


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