INTRODUCTION: Smoke-free legislation and shifting norms in many countries have reduced secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure, but many children, particularly from disadvantaged homes, have high levels of exposure in homes and cars. We explored the particular challenges mothers who smoke face when attempting to protect their children from SHS exposure in disadvantaged homes.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 22 disadvantaged mothers of children aged 1-3 years in Scotland, using an innovative floor plan method to prompt accounts. Interviews were analyzed thematically.
RESULTS: Disadvantaged mothers reported attempting to protect their children from both SHS and becoming smokers, motivated by the perceived future health and financial burdens these entail. The variable strategies used to protect children during early childhood were constrained and/or facilitated by limited and changing living circumstances, single parenthood, increasing child mobility and awareness of parental smoking, and complex social relationships. In the context of several intersecting dimensions of disadvantage (unemployment, low income, alcohol/drug abuse, and domestic abuse), the imperative to be and to be seen to be a good mother was also key in shaping smoking practices in the home.
CONCLUSIONS: Challenging and changing domestic living circumstances and relationships and the increasing mobility of children in their first few years are key barriers to creating smoke-free homes for disadvantaged mothers. Key facilitators include mothers' concerns about children's increasing awareness of smoking and moving to accommodation with accessible outdoor space. Targeted public health initiatives need to acknowledge and support disadvantaged parents' existing motivations and attempts to protect children from both SHS and becoming smokers.