Promoting smoke-free homes: a novel behavioral intervention using real-time audio-visual feedback on airborne particle levels

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 23;8(8):e73251. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073251. eCollection 2013.


Interventions are needed to protect the health of children who live with smokers. We pilot-tested a real-time intervention for promoting behavior change in homes that reduces second hand tobacco smoke (SHS) levels. The intervention uses a monitor and feedback system to provide immediate auditory and visual signals triggered at defined thresholds of fine particle concentration. Dynamic graphs of real-time particle levels are also shown on a computer screen. We experimentally evaluated the system, field-tested it in homes with smokers, and conducted focus groups to obtain general opinions. Laboratory tests of the monitor demonstrated SHS sensitivity, stability, precision equivalent to at least 1 µg/m(3), and low noise. A linear relationship (R(2) = 0.98) was observed between the monitor and average SHS mass concentrations up to 150 µg/m(3). Focus groups and interviews with intervention participants showed in-home use to be acceptable and feasible. The intervention was evaluated in 3 homes with combined baseline and intervention periods lasting 9 to 15 full days. Two families modified their behavior by opening windows or doors, smoking outdoors, or smoking less. We observed evidence of lower SHS levels in these homes. The remaining household voiced reluctance to changing their smoking activity and did not exhibit lower SHS levels in main smoking areas or clear behavior change; however, family members expressed receptivity to smoking outdoors. This study established the feasibility of the real-time intervention, laying the groundwork for controlled trials with larger sample sizes. Visual and auditory cues may prompt family members to take immediate action to reduce SHS levels. Dynamic graphs of SHS levels may help families make decisions about specific mitigation approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter* / analysis
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult


  • Particulate Matter
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution