The effects of secondhand smoke on children can be more serious because their bodies are still developing. Find out more about how secondhand smoke affects babies and children.
What’s wrong with secondhand smoke?
Tobacco smoke contains poisonous gases and thousands of toxic chemicals. These poisons get into the bodies of children who live in smoky atmospheres. Children are even more sensitive to smoke than adults as their bodies are young and still developing.
How does secondhand smoke harm children?
Babies and children exposed to a smoke atmosphere are:
Twice as likely to have asthma attacks and chest infections
More likely to need hospital care in their first year of life
Be off sick from school more often
More likely to get more coughs, colds and wheezes
Medical research also shows they have:
Much higher risk of cot death than the children of non-smokers
Increased risk of meningitis
More chance of getting ear infections and ‘glue ear’, which can lead to partial deafness
What can you do to protect babies and children?
You can help protect them by keeping their playing, sleeping and eating areas completely smoke free.
Always smoke outside well away from children
Watch out and about with the family, find non-smoking areas
What can I do if my family and friends are smokers?
Let them know before they visit that you are keeping your home smoke free for your children’s health. Ask if they would help by smoking outside or before they visit. Explain that children get ill through secondhand smoke.
What about car journeys?
Secondhand smoke gets even more concentrated inside a car. You can reduce children’s travel sickness and make a positive difference to their health if you avoid smoking when they travel with you.
However, if you have to smoke:
On short trips, smoke before you set off, rather than in the car
On longer trips, stop and smoke outside away from the children
What other dangers do children face from smoking?
As well as harm caused by secondhand smoke, cigarettes are responsible for many accidents and injuries. Smoking is also a major cause of house fires. To reduce the risk of accidents:
Teach children that cigarette ends are hot and will burn if touched
Make sure smokers put out their cigarettes before going near children
Keep all smoking materials out of children’s reach
Never leave a lit cigarette, lighters or matches unattended
Clear away ashtrays to prevent children playing with cigarette ends
How can I discourage my children from wanting to smoke?
Research shows that children who live with smokers are much more likely to start themselves. Smoking is a difficult habit to break, so it is important to encourage children never to start.
Tell children from your experience what you don’t like about smoking and why you don’t want them to start
If you or other family members regret starting, explain why
What else can I do?
The best thing you can do to protect your children is to keep them away from all cigarettes and smoky places. The ideal thing would be for all smokers to try to stop. For anyone considering stopping, there is plenty of help and support available: