Parental Smoking Associated with Teens' Below-Par Test Scores

September 24, 2007

PHILADELPHIA -- Teenage exposure at home to second-hand tobacco smoke seems to go hand in hand with poor performance on standardized academic tests, investigators here reported.

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 24 -- Teenage exposure at home to second-hand tobacco smoke seems to go hand in hand with poor performance on standardized academic tests, investigators here found.

If either parent smoked, a child had 25% to 30% higher failure rate compared with children of nonsmokers, Bradley Collins, Ph.D., of Temple University, and colleagues, reported in the October issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The higher failure rate held up for either ordinary or advanced-level examinations.

Prenatal and early childhood exposure to second-hand smoke did not influence test scores.

"Our study supports growing evidence that environmental tobacco smoke is an environmental toxin that affects academic performance," the authors concluded. "Evidence herein should further encourage multipronged efforts to reduce adolescents' environmental tobacco smoke exposure."

The study evolved from previous research showing an association between prenatal tobacco exposure and subsequent neurocognitive and behavioral problems that can adversely affect academic performance. Investigators hypothesized that prenatal tobacco exposure would decrease the likelihood passing academic achievement tests at ages 16 to 18.

The investigators analyzed data from 6,380 women and their offspring in the 1958 National Child Development Study. Pass-fail performance was assessed by means of British standardized achievement tests (ordinary-level and advanced-level).

The results showed that prenatal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke did not affect test performance, whether assessed by ordinary-level or advanced-level exams. However, parental smoking significantly increased the likelihood of test failure on either test, as did the family's socioeconomic status.

Maternal smoking increased the likelihood of ordinary-level test failure by 29% and paternal smoking by 30% (P

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