Economic burden of environmental tobacco smoke on Hong Kong families: scale and impact

J Epidemiol Community Health. 1998 Jan;52(1):53-8. doi: 10.1136/jech.52.1.53.


Study objective: To examine the financial cost of doctor consultations for cough, phlegm, and wheeze in children living in a home where family members smoke compared with those not exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. To model these costs to provide the Territory of Hong Kong with estimates of potentially avoidable health care resource use.

Design: Cross sectional questionnaire survey.

Subjects and setting: All children (10,615) in classes primary 3 to 6 (aged 8-13 years) attending 27 schools in two districts of Hong Kong in 1992 and their parents.

Measurements and main results: Doctor consultations during the previous three months for symptoms of either cough, phlegm or wheeze were higher in younger children, ranging from 22.9% in 8 year olds to 8.4% in those aged 12 or over. For those children living in homes with one, or more than one, smoker category (there were four categories of smokers: father, mother, siblings, others), the adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for a doctor consultation for any of these symptoms were 1.15 (1.01, 1.31) and 1.38 (1.14, 1.67) respectively. Using US$15 as the minimum cost incurred per consultation, the expected direct cost per annum per child of doctor consultations was 14% higher for children living in a one smoker category home and 25% for two or more compared with exposure to no smokers in the home. Using these values on a territory wide basis, the annual avoidable direct cost associated with exposure to tobacco smoke in children from birth to 12 years of age ranged from US$338,042 to US$991,591.

Conclusions: Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke not only provides a respiratory health risk for children but also an avoidable excess cost to the family's financial resources and health service providers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cough / economics*
  • Cough / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Sounds* / etiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sputum
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / economics*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution