About 70% of the parents and guardians of children who smoke reported being aware or suspecting it. For kids who use e-cigarettes, the percentage is about 40%, the study said.
“When parents think about tobacco, many will picture smoking a cigarette but other tobacco and nicotine products may not come to mind,” said Dr. Benjamin Chaffee, a senior author of the study and associate professor at University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry.
“E-cigarettes, in particular, may look like a tech device and don’t produce a lasting odor.”
“Any tobacco or nicotine use by children is concerning,” Chaffee told CNN. “Any product that delivers nicotine has a high risk of addiction. Nicotine exposure is particularly concerning for adolescents, whose brains are still developing.”
Vaping is an epidemic
Parents and awareness
Parents and guardians were more likely to know or suspect their child uses tobacco or nicotine products if the child was older, male, White and lived with a tobacco user, according to the study.
The study also found that parents with lower levels of education were more likely to know or suspect their child uses tobacco or nicotine products. Mothers were identified as being more aware than fathers.
The role of household rules
Another focus of the study, along with parental awareness, was the role of household rules in connection with tobacco use.
Children living in homes with stricter rules around tobacco use for kids and adults, as well as visitors, guests and workers, were 20% to 26% less likely to start using tobacco, the study reported.
“Parents are role models for their kids,” Chaffee said. “The first thing parents can do is not use tobacco products themselves. For parents still trying to quit, they can make sure that the home always remains a tobacco-free space.”
Rules and expectations set in the house were found to be more effective than just talking to kids about not using tobacco, although the study didn’t measure for the quality of those conversations.
“While we found that talking with kids alone was not as effective as tobacco-free homes, we still believe parents should engage in high-quality, clear communication with their kids about tobacco and vaping,” Chaffee said.
CNN’s Naomi Thomas and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this story.