Adolescent Exposure to Tobacco Smoke


NEPTUNE, NEW JERSEY -- Adolescents who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely than the general pediatric population to develop rhinitis, an inflammation of the nose, typically causing uncomfortable symptoms such as congestion, runny nose and headaches. Although environmental allergies are a common cause of rhinitis, the effect of smoking on rhinitis in adolescents does not appear to be related to allergies. Researcher and Otolaryngologist, Dr. Josef Shargorodsky, in work performed jointly with researchers from Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identified these findings in his recently published study in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology.

"Up until this point, there was no clear demonstration of the relation between tobacco exposure, allergies and rhinitis in a large scale population study,” says Dr. Shargorodsky, co-author of the study. "In other words, I wanted to know if there was a link between childhood tobacco exposure and the prevalence of rhinitis and its relation to allergic sensitization in the U.S. pediatric population.”

A cross sectional study for which 2714 children and adolescents, aged 6 to 19 were surveyed by the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) . This study links tobacco smoke exposure with an increased prevalence of self-reported rhinitis symptoms, as well as a decreased prevalence of allergic sensitization, particularly to food allergens. For example:

  • The study revealed a significant trend between increasing levels of cotinine, an alkaloid found in tobacco, from both active smokers and second hand smoke, and prevalence of self-reported rhinitis.
  • The study also revealed a possible decreased prevalence of food allergen sensitization in participants with the highest level of cotinine from second hand smoke.

What this means is that, at least for the outcomes investigated in this study, tobacco exposure in adolescents has a significant association with bothersome nasal symptoms.  The observed associations between rhinitis and tobacco smoke exposure support the need to minimize tobacco exposure in the pediatric population. Dr. Shargorodsky says “It is so important to take these findings seriously and protect our children. By limiting, or eliminating tobacco exposure among the pediatric population, we will be doing our children a great service.”

Dr. Shargorodsky is a fellowship trained Rhinologist, focusing on sinus and skull base conditions. He is also board certified in pediatric and adult Otolaryngology, and practices at Coastal Ear, Nose and Throat in Neptune, New Jersey (