Marijuana exposure common in children of tobacco smokers

1. Nearly half of hospitalized children whose parents enrolled in a tobacco smoking cessation study tested positive for 11-hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (COOH-THC) in their urine, and one tenth tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

2. Children whose parents smoked marijuana inside the home in a different room were significantly more likely to have detectable COOH-THC than did children whose parents smoked outside.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown: Marijuana use has become more prevalent over the past few decades, and many states have recently legalized its medical and recreational use for adults. While previous studies have suggested that in-utero and early childhood exposure to marijuana smoke may have long-term health consequences, less is known about the prevalence of such exposure. In this cross-sectional study, researchers conducted a secondary analysis of data collected from parents of hospitalized children in Colorado after the legalization of marijuana in 2014. Parents who were active tobacco smokers were enrolled and surveyed on tobacco and marijuana use, and urine samples were collected from their children. Nearly half of children had detectable COOH-THC in their urine and 11% had detectable THC, suggestive of active exposure. Children whose parents reported smoking at home in another room were significantly more likely to have detectable urine COOH-THC than children whose parents smoked outside or not at all when children were home. These findings are limited by the small and geographically limited sample. Furthermore, only families with hospitalized children and parents who smoked cigarettes were included. For physicians, however, these findings highlight the importance of identifying children at risk for secondhand marijuana exposure and educating families on measures that may reduce exposure.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Relevant reading: Detecting Biomarkers of Secondhand Marijuana Smoke in Young Children

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: Researchers conducted a secondary analysis of data collected in Colorado after January 1, 2014 from a study assessing the efficacy of a tobacco smoking cessation program for parents of hospitalized children. Parents who enrolled in the study smoked tobacco cigarettes daily or less than daily but were interesting in reducing exposure or quitting. Parents were surveyed about demographics, tobacco use, marijuana use, and secondhand smoke exposure and urine samples were collected from each child. Researchers identified 83 children from the original study with sufficient urine samples remaining for analysis.

At the time of hospitalization, 11% of parents reported smoking marijuana every day and 23.2% reported smoking on some days. Of these parents, 7.4% reported smoking marijuana inside their home daily. Detectable levels of COOH-THC were seen in 45.8% of the children, and 10.8% had detectable THC. Children with detectable COOH-THC were significantly more likely to have parents who reported smoking in another room compared to children whose parents smoked outside or never smoked when children were home.

Image: PD

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