Secondhand smoke is mostly invisible but the health effects are very real.
SECONDHAND SMOKE AND KIDS HEALTH
Secondhand smoke comes from lit cigarettes and cigars. It also comes from smoke breathed out by smokers. When children breathe secondhand smoke, it is like they are smoking, too.
Secondhand smoke is made of thousands of chemicals. Many are poisons that stay in your body. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Because kids’ bodies are still growing and developing, inhaling these chemicals can be especially dangerous for kids. Children who breathe secondhand smoke can have more:
- Ear infections
- Coughs and colds
- Respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Tooth decay
- Children cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over colds.
- Stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, eye irritation, and hoarseness.
- Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke. It may cause more asthma attacks and the attacks may be more severe, requiring trips to the hospital.
Among kids 3-11 years old, 54% are being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. A nonsmoker’s risk of lung cancer increases 30% when living with someone who smokes in the home.
Secondhand smoke exposure causes about 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700–69,600 heart disease deaths each year among adult nonsmokers in the US.
A person standing 20 inches from a burning cigarette may breathe in 10 times more cancer-causing chemicals than the smoker. An hour spent in a smoke-filled room is equal to smoking one cigarette.
Long-term Effects of Secondhand Smoke
Children who grow up with parents who smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. Children and teens who smoke are affected by the same health problems that affect adults. Secondhand smoke may cause problems for children later in life including:
- Poor lung development (meaning that their lungs never grow to their full potential)
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Cataracts (an eye disease)
Secondhand Smoke is Everywhere!
Children can be exposed to secondhand smoke in many places. Even if there are no smokers in your home, your children can still be exposed to secondhand smoke. Places include:
- In a car
- At a bus stop
- Outside your child care or school facility
- At a babysitter’s house
- At a friend’s or relative’s house
- Outside at sporting events or concerts
- In parks or playgrounds