Previous studies have shown that food insecurity is strongly linked to household income.
Since families with at least one smoker spend 2 percent to 20 percent of their income on tobacco, it is likely that smokers are affecting the financial resources needed to provide adequate food.
For the study, Cynthia Cutler-Triggs, M.D., of the New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, and colleagues analyzed 8,817 households with children age 17 and younger from 1999 to 2002 to see if the presence or absence of adult smokers in the household affected the food security of those living in the home. Age, sex, race of the child and poverty index ratios were also noted.
At least one smoker lived in 23 percent of the children's households "and 32 percent of children in low-income households lived with a smoker compared with 15 percent of those in more affluent households."
Fifteen percent of adults and 11 percent of children reported having experienced food insecurity within the last year, with 6 percent of adults and 1 percent of children experiencing severe food insecurity.
"Food insecurity was more common and severe in children and adults in households with smokers," the authors said.
"Of children in households with smokers, 17 percent were food insecure vs. 8.7 percent in households without smokers," with rates of severe child food insecurity at 3.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
"For adults, 25.7 percent in households with smokers and 11.6 percent in households without smokers were food insecure, and rates of severe food insecurity were 11.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively," the authors added.
The researchers found that the highest rates of food insecurity were in children living in low-income households with smokers. Also, compared with white families, black and Hispanic families had higher rates of child food insecurity in both smoking and non-smoking homes.
The study is published in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.