Sensitivity to Secondhand Smoke Exposure Predicts Future Smoking Susceptibility


Lessov-Schlaggar, C. N., Wahlgren, D. R., Liles, S., Ji, M., Hughes, S. C., Winickoff, J. P., … & Hovell, M. F. (2011). Sensitivity to secondhand smoke exposure predicts future smoking susceptibility. Pediatrics, 128(2), 254-262.



Susceptibility to cigarette smoking in tobacco-naive youth is a strong predictor of smoking initiation. Identifying mechanisms that contribute to smoking susceptibility provide information about early targets for smoking prevention. This study investigated whether sensitivity to secondhand smoke exposure (SHSe) contributes to smoking susceptibility.

Participants and methods

Subjects were high-risk, ethnically diverse 8- to 13-year-old subjects who never smoked and who lived with at least 1 smoker and who participated in a longitudinal SHSe reduction intervention trial. Reactions (eg, feeling dizzy) to SHSe were assessed at baseline, and smoking susceptibility was assessed at baseline and 3 follow-up measurements over 12 months. We examined the SHSe reaction factor structure, association with demographic characteristics, and prediction of longitudinal smoking susceptibility status.


Factor analysis identified “physically unpleasant” and “pleasant” reaction factors. Reported SHSe reactions did not differ across gender or family smoking history. More black preteens reported feeling relaxed and calm, and fewer reported feeling a head rush or buzz compared with non-Hispanic white and Hispanic white counterparts. Longitudinally, 8.5% of subjects tracked along the trajectory for high (versus low) smoking susceptibility. Reporting SHSe as “unpleasant or gross” predicted a 78% reduction in the probability of being assigned to the high–smoking susceptibility trajectory (odds ratio: 0.22 [95% confidence interval: 0.05–0.95]), after covariate adjustment.


Assessment of SHSe sensitivity is a novel approach to the study of cigarette initiation etiology and informs prevention interventions.

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