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For Immediate Release

New Program Helps Parents Quit Smoking and Protects Kids from Dangerous Secondhand Smoke

Pittsburgh region has nation's highest maternal smoking rate

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has launched a unique program to help parents quit smoking that utilizes the frequent interactions between pediatricians and parents during a child's doctor visits.

Already 16 parents have quit smoking and 140 more have enrolled in smoking cessation counseling at Children's through its new Clean Air PLUS program. The program is funded by a five-year, $300,000 grant from Tobacco Free Allegheny, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing tobacco use.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is a major health threat to children, particularly in the Pittsburgh region, which has the highest rate of mothers who smoke during pregnancy among 50 cities, according to a survey conducted in 2000 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The survey found that in Pittsburgh, nearly one in four new mothers smokes during pregnancy.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, ear and respiratory infections, and exacerbations of asthma conditions, according to Deborah Moss, MD, a pediatrician at Children's and director of Clean Air PLUS.

"Not only are parents who smoke harming themselves, but they could be harming their children through secondhand smoke," Dr. Moss said. "Our program is taking advantage of the frequent interaction pediatricians have with parents. Pediatricians develop strong relationships with parents and this gives them an opportunity to talk about habits and behaviors that might have a negative impact on their child's health, like smoking."

Pediatricians see an infant seven times in the first year of life and 20 times by the time a child is 5. These repeated visits create many opportunities for pediatricians to have dialogue with parents about their smoking habit and to intervene with those interested in quitting, Dr. Moss said.

Over the last year, Dr. Moss has trained more than 140 residents, nurses and social workers at both Children's and Magee-Womens Hospital on techniques to most effectively encourage patients and parents to quit smoking. Now those physicians and other staff trained by Dr. Moss are able to approach pregnant mothers at Magee and parents of children treated in the outpatient clinic at Children's.

Patients and parents at these clinics are asked if they smoke and if so, they discuss their readiness to quit. Those thinking about quitting are referred to an on-site smoking cessation counselor. To date, the program has received more than 450 referrals for smoking cessation. At Children's, the counselor works with the parent on a regular basis, and can recommend quitting aids, such as the nicotine patch or Zyban, which help reduce the withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood of success. The Clean Air PLUS program provides a voucher to cover the cost of the nicotine patch for interested patients and parents.

Marc Lukasiak or Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, or

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008