In countries like Turkey where smoking is highly prevalent, children's exposure to tobacco smoke is an important public health problem. The goals of this study were to determine the self-reported environmental tobacco smoke exposure status of primary school students in grades 3 to 5, to verify self-reported exposure levels with data provided from a biomarker of exposure, and to develop methods for preventing school children from passive smoking.
The study was conducted on 347 primary school students by using a standard questionnaire and urinary cotinine tests. Children with verified ETS exposure were randomly assigned to 2 intervention groups. Two phone interviews were conducted with the parents of the first group regarding their children's passive smoking status and its possible consequences. On the other hand, a brief note concerning urinary cotinine test result was sent to parents of the second group. Nine months after the initial urinary cotinine tests, measurements were repeated in both groups.
According to questionnaire data, 59.9% of the study group (208 of 347) were exposed to ETS. Urinary cotinine measurements of children were highly consistent with the self-reported exposure levels (P < 0.001). Two different intervention methods were applied to parents of the exposed children. Control tests suggested a remarkable reduction in the proportion of those children demonstrating a recent exposure to ETS in both groups. Proportions of children with urinary cotinine concentrations 10 ng/ml or lower were 79.5% in Group I and 74.2% in Group II (P > 0.05).
Self-reported ETS exposure was found to be pretty accurate in the 9–11 age group when checked with urinary cotinine tests. Only informing parents that their childrens' ETS exposure were confirmed by a laboratory test seems to be very promising in preventing children from ETS.