Research Article

Absence from school related to children's and parental smoking habits.

BMJ 1989; 298 doi: (Published 14 January 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;298:90
  1. A. Charlton,
  2. V. Blair
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Social Oncology, University of Manchester.


    A sample of 2885 children aged 12 and 13 who completed a questionnaire survey in school in January 1987 were given a second questionnaire on a specified date in May 1987. The smoking habits, parental smoking habits, sex, and social background of the children who were present on both dates were compared with those of the children who were absent on the second occasion. Regular smoking was significantly more common among those absent for the second questionnaire: among boys 181/877 (21%) who never smoked, 109/486 (22%) who sometimes smoked, and 21/45 (47%) who regularly smoked were absent, and among girls the figures were 157/947 (17%), 117/487 (24%), and 17/43 (40%) respectively. Thus the odds ratio for those who sometimes smoked was 1.29 and for regular smokers 3.09 against those who never smoked. Whatever the children's smoking habits, the proportion who were absent was higher when both parents or at least the mother smoked, the odds ratio being 1.39; the proportions absent were 203/1180 (17%) if neither parent or only the father smoked v 135/644 (21%) if both parents or only mother smoked for children who never smoked; 105/529 (20%) v 121/444 (27%) for those who sometimes smoked; and 10/27 (37%) v 28/61 (46%) for those who regularly smoked. Sex and social background had little effect, though there was an overall higher rate of absence among boys from industrial areas. The findings show a higher rate of minor ailments in children who smoke and in children whose mother smokes. If children are having frequent days off school for minor ailments possibly they or their parents would benefit from advice and help in stopping smoking.