HOBI researchers test interventions to help children of cigarette smokers breathe easier

Photo of Dr. Salloum
Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D

A team of UF Health researchers looking for ways to help clear the air for children whose parents smoke cigarettes is turning to pediatric clinics for help.

Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D., received a 3-year, $404,909 funding award from the Florida Department of Health’s James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program to develop and test stop-smoking interventions aimed at parents who bring their children to pediatric clinics.

Salloum, an assistant professor in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics (HOBI) and a member of UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP), will work with Lindsay Thompson, M.D., M.S., to test the implementation of parental screening for tobacco use through the patient portal at six UF Health pediatric clinics.Thompson is a professor of pediatrics and health outcomes and biomedical informatics in the department of pediatrics at UF Health and assistant director of clinical research at ICHP.

The patient portal also will be used to reach out to parents who smoke with messages that encourage them to quit. Smokers will be electronically referred to stop-smoking resources provided by Tobacco Free Florida.

Why pediatric clinics?

“For many parents, a visit to the pediatrician is the only regular interaction they have with a health care professional,” Salloum said. “For this reason, pediatricians have a unique opportunity to intervene with parents who are smokers.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children of cigarette smokers are likely to be exposed to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke—the smoke that is released from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the smoker. This smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including 70 that can cause cancer.

Dr. Thompson Headshot
Lindsay Thompson, M.D., M.S.

Infants and children who breathe in secondhand smoke have a greater risk of developing more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Salloum hopes that as a result of the program, parents who smoke will get the help they need to quit.

“Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are the leading preventable causes of death for families in Florida and nationwide,” Salloum said. “This research has the potential to save thousands of lives.”

The James and Esther King biomedical research awards support research initiatives in the areas of tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and pulmonary disease.