If you, or a family member, smoke cigarettes can you be harming your children?  This article will discuss what secondhand smoke is and how it effects children.  


When a person is smoking a cigarette cigar, or pipe, the smoke comes from two sources:  the burning cigarette itself, and the smoke that the person exhales into the air. You can usually identify the odor from cigarettes when you enter a room where someone has been smoking.  That is because the chemicals from that smoke stays on a person’s clothes, hair, furnishings, and curtains.  This smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and 250 of them are identified as poisonous, and over 70 can cause cancer.   According to a 2006 report from the Surgeon General , there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.  Whether or not you are smoking in the house or outside, children can still be affected by the chemicals that linger on the smoker and the environment. 


Right from the moment a baby is conceived, fetuses, babies, and children's bodies are growing and developing; especially important are the child's heart, lungs and brain.  Exposing children to the harmful chemicals from second hand cigarette smoke can hinder the strong healthy development of these vital organs.    Let's examine how secondhand can affect children:

Before baby is born:

  • Babies born underweight

  • improperly functioning lungs

  • higher incidence of premature babies

  • long-term cognitive and behavioral problems including attention deficit disorder

(American Academy of Pediatrics)

Infants and children:

  • Infants exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased likelihood of dying of Sudden Infant Syndrome (SID)

  • Increase in colds and sore throat

  • Increase in childhood asthma

  • ear infections

  • Wheezing

  • Allergies

  • Pneumonia

  • Upper respiratory tract infections

Facts about Children's Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

  • On average, children have more exposure to secondhand smoke than non-smoking adults.

  • Cotinine levels in children between 3 and 11 years old are more than double that of non-smoking adults.

  • An alarming 90% of the exposure kids get to secondhand smoke comes from their parents.

  • Over half of American children breathe in secondhand smoke in cars, homes and public places where smoking is allowed. (Martin, Terry)


According to the American Cancer Society, the only way to fully protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke indoors is to prevent all smoking in that indoor space or building. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot keep non-smokers from being exposed to secondhand smoke.

Do not smoke in your car. As parents you may spend a lot of time in your car with the children.  Second hand smoke builds up fast in a car.  The US Environmental Protection Agency strongly encourages people to make their cars, and homes, smoke free.  Florida is the latest in states that are passing laws that ban people from smoking in cars that carry passengers under a certain age or weight.  Many malls, schools, hospitals, public buildings, restaurants and office buildings now ban cigarette smoking from the premises. Never smoke in the vicinity of a child.

It's never too late to stop smoking.