Secondhand Smoke and Your Children

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of exhaled cigarette smoke and the smoke coming from burning tobacco. It is a cocktail of more than 7000 chemical compounds, 250 of which are toxic, and more than 70 of these compounds are known carcinogens. Exposure to secondhand smoke is highly dangerous to one’s health, especially the young ones.



Protect Non-SmokersChildren are at greater risk of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. They breath faster than adults, as a result they inhale higher concentration of toxic compounds from cigarette smoke. An average adult breathe roughly 14-18 times per minute, while a newborn child breathe up to 60 times per minute. This is true to children up to 5 years old.

Another reason for this is that children simply rely on adults to keep their environment safe. For instance, a newborn baby cannot choose to move into another room when someone smokes. They have little or do not have control at all in their environment.


Secondhand Smoke and Your Child’s Health

  • Babies born from mothers who smoke have lower birth weight compared to babies born from non-smokers. Low birth weight is among the primary causes of infant death.
  • Smoking during pregnancy affects the mental development of babies. They are at higher risk of cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure of babies after birth increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) up to two times. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke before and after birth are 3 to 4 times at greater risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke worsens the condition of children with asthma. Passive smoking is also being associated to the increasing number of new cases of asthma every year.
  • Secondhand smoke increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infections, like pneumonia and bronchitis in children.
  • Children whose parents are smokers experience frequent middle ear infections. Cigarette smoke tends to irritate the eustachian tube. The subsequent swelling of the eustachian tube leads to infections. It is among the common causes of hearing loss in kids if left untreated.
  • Secondhand smoke delays the development of the child’s lungs.

Children and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

  • On the average, children are more exposed to secondhand smoke compared to nonsmoking adults.
  • 90% of child’s exposure to secondhand smoke comes from the parents.
  • Children normally breathe in secondhand smoke in their homes, cars, and other public places where smoking is not prohibited.

With more than 70 carcinogenic and 200 poisonous compounds, secondhand smoke is harmful and unsafe to everyone, especially your children. They depend on you to keep the air they breathe safe.

If you’re a smoker, you have to make sure that your children are protected from the secondhand smoke you produce or it is much better if you can quit smoking now. It’s never too late for you to quit smoking considering that your and your child’s health are at stake. The sacrifices you’ll take are nothing compared to the benefits you and your family will enjoy after you have quit smoking.


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