New Grant to Help Parents Who Smoke While Their Children Are in a Hospital

Child inpatient with parent holding her hand

UW-CTRI Assistant Professor Dr. Brian Williams has secured an internal grant from the UW Department of Pediatrics to support parents who smoke while their children are in the hospital.

“Hospitalization is a stressful time,” said Williams, a researcher and hospitalist trained in both internal medicine and pediatrics. “Nicotine addiction compounds that stress.”

It’s not uncommon, he said, for one or both parents to be going in and out of the room to smoke, or be outside smoking when a surgeon visits or an important care decision needs to be made.

So the new grant will make nicotine-replacement medications and coaching available to parents who smoke during their children’s hospital stay.

Dr. Brian Williams
Dr. Brian Williams

“The very acute goal is to keep parents at the bedside to support their children,” Williams said. “If we can support the parents so they don’t go out to smoke at all or as often, that minimizes the third-hand smoke exposure to patients or staff.”

That’s because research shows tobacco smoke can linger in the clothes and hair of those who smoke. Essentially, if people can smell it, they’re experiencing third-hand smoke exposure.

To date, there is limited evidence on how to effectively intervene with caregivers who smoke during a child’s hospitalization, Williams said.

Williams and his team will begin offering this support to parents at American Family Children’s Hospital this summer, and treat up to 50 adults while supplies last, or around four months.

Following consent, participants will complete a pre-intervention survey on a study tablet using well-established, validated smoking assessment questions. Participants will receive $20 for completing the initial survey. They’ll get another $20 for completing a second survey at discharge.

The study team will follow up with parents via phone two weeks later to encourage a smoke-free policy in their cars and homes, to offer support for quitting smoking, and to answer final survey questions for an additional $20. The hope is that families will feel like UW supports them and cares enough to check in on how they’re doing.

Williams said he’d love it if this pilot grant was successful enough to lead to a larger R01 grant.