Secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke (SHS) has been proposed to potentially increase risk of acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, exacerbated asthma and decreased lung function in children.

The objectives of this study of Qatari schoolchildren were six-fold: to assess feasibility of a national study on athletic participation, healthy living and lung function; to provide estimates of height and weight; to estimate the prevalence of exposure to SHS; to assess potential bias of informant; to estimate prevalence of smoking; to compare results of reported exposure to SHS and reported smoking using levels of saliva cotinine (SC).

This pilot phase of the National Epidemiological Study of Lung Health among Qatari Schoolchildren collected data from 321 boys and 413 girls enrolled in government schools in grades 7 to 12 using questionnaires administered by trained native Arabic research staff from October 2008 to April 2009. SC samples, height, weight and spirometry data were collected.

Mean Body Mass Index percentile ranged from 42nd percentile among 19 year old boys to 76th among 17 year olds. Among girls the range was narrower: from 61st percentile in 17 years to 86th in 11 year olds. For male schoolchildren, mothers answered 38% of the questionnaires while fathers answered 62%. For daughters, mothers responded for 58% and fathers for 42%. We found that mothers were more likely to report higher amounts of exposure to SHS than fathers especially for daughters. Fathers reported little exposure to SHS. There were 106 children who showed exposure to nicotine by SC level. Of these, 14 (13%) reported that they were smokers.

Seventy-two percent of children were reported to have been exposed to SHS. This varied by sex of child and reporting parent. The finding on potential reporting bias between mothers and fathers has implications for the future national study. The reported prevalence of smoking among this population was 3%.

(1) Qatari schoolchildren are exposed to SHS; (2) The national study must be designed to control for respondent bias; (3) The national study is feasible.


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