NUI Galway has joined a multidisciplinary team of experts across Ireland and the UK to devise new ways of supporting families to have smoke-free homes.
Physicist Dr Miriam Byrne will work with researchers in seven universities to inform the development of future interventions and support mechanisms to help reduce smoking in the home, given the health risks particularly to pregnant women, babies and children.
Dr Byrne said: “Secondhand smoke has long been known as a danger to health, particularly for young children and pregnant mothers. Despite knowing the risks, and that it is a more serious issue in poorer areas, there is no recommended approach to tackling this issue and to encourage families to have a smoke-free home.
“It may also be the case that restrictions introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 have exacerbated the problem due to the amount of time families have been housebound, particularly in the colder and wetter months.”
The Smoke-free Homes Innovation Network’s (SHINE), led by University of Stirling, Scotland and University College Dublin, brings together a multidisciplinary team – including tobacco and social science expertise – with the aim of broadening knowledge and understanding as to why smokers in the UK and Ireland continue to smoke in the home and what can be done to support them to create a smoke-free home.
The network will explore smoke reduction strategies within homes, including initiatives to encourage smoking at the back door, with the window open, or with the cooker extraction fan on.
Dr Byrne said: “The network and the high-level expertise of those involved will be crucial in helping to develop thinking on the issue and accelerate initiatives on policy, research and practice.”
The SHINE network noted that previous research shows second-hand smoke exposure varies significantly with socio-economic circumstances. In Scotland, 15% of children living in poorer areas are exposed, compared to 1% of those living in wealthier areas.
Researchers will take account of these wider challenges to understand the best interventions and support mechanisms for smokers, and any barriers to smoke-free homes, particularly for people living in less wealthy areas.
They will address why, when and where people in Ireland and the UK continue to smoke within the home, what prevents them from creating a smoke-free home and what can be done to support them in making changes.
The network is funded by the Irish Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK.