Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Early Language Difficulties among U.S. Children




Jackson, Dylan B.
Testa, Alexander

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Objective: Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is a serious public health concern with the potential to interfere with various components of healthy child development. Even so, there has been limited nationally representative research investigating these connections. The current study examines the relationship between ETS and language difficulties among toddlers and preschool-aged children in the United States. Method: Data are derived from the 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health and facilitate strategic comparisons between different forms of ETS—namely, children who live with family members who smoke vs. children whose family members smoke inside the housing unit. Results: The findings reveal a robust association between family members smoking inside the housing unit and both receptive and expressive language difficulties, but only among male children. After adjusting for covariates, smoking inside the housing unit is associated with a 182% increase in the rate of early composite language difficulties among male children. These associations persist even when compared to male children who live with smoking family members who do not smoke inside the housing unit. Conclusions: The findings suggest a need for interventions designed to reduce ETS in households with young children and increase targeted language skill training for vulnerable children in an effort to enhance child development and well-being. To maximize this effort, we advocate for interdisciplinary teams, including medical and public health practitioners, educators, and researchers, to work together to develop and implement evidence-based strategies to limit ETS in homes and facilitate healthy language development among young children.



smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, language, children, receptive, expressive


International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18 (12): 6489 (2021)


Criminology and Criminal Justice