Challenges in Enforcing Home Smoking Rules in a Low-Income Population: Implications for Measurement and Intervention Design

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Smoke-free homes reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, contribute to lower levels of consumption, and help smokers to quit. Even when home smoking rules are established however, they may not be consistently enforced.


This study uses data from a randomized controlled trial of a brief intervention to create smoke-free homes among callers to the United Way of Greater Atlanta 2-1-1. Participants with partial or full home smoking bans at 6-month follow-up were asked about enforcement challenges, rooms where smoking occurred, and exceptions to the rules. Air nicotine monitors were placed in a subset of homes.


Participants (n = 286) were mostly female (84.6%) and African American (84.9%). Most were smokers (79.0%) and reported at least half of their friends and relatives smoked (63.3%). Among those with a full ban, 4.3% reported their rules were broken very often whereas 52.6% stated they were never broken. Bad weather and parties were the most common exceptions to rules. Among nonsmokers with full bans, 16% reported exposure to secondhand smoke in the home 1–3 days in the past week. In multivariate analyses, having a partial ban, being a nonsmoker, and living with three or more smokers predicted higher levels of enforcement challenges.


Findings suggest the majority of households with newly adopted smoke-free rules had no or rare enforcement challenges, but about one-fifth reported their rules were broken sometimes or very often. Interventions to create smoke-free homes should address enforcement challenges as newly adopted rules may be fragile in some households.


Interventions that promote smoke-free homes should address enforcement challenges.

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