What are children breathing?

What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is the smoke given off by cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is a mixture of more than 4,000 chemical compounds. A child who spends just one hour in a smoky room is inhaling as many dangerous chemicals as if he or she smoked ten or more cigarettes. Even when parents don't smoke at home or in the car, there still can be negative effects when children are exposed to the tobacco smoke pollution released from the clothing and hair of smoking parents.  

What are the health threats to children from secondhand smoke?
Infants and children are more vulnerable than adults are because they're still developing physically and generally have a higher breathing rate, which means they may inhale greater quantities of secondhand smoke than adults do. An infant who was exposed to secondhand smoke as a developing fetus may be at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Post-birth exposure to secondhand smoke from the mother, father or others in the household also increases the risk of SIDS. Women who actively smoke during pregnancy expose their developing babies to passive smoke — the chemicals may pass through the placenta — and put the baby at risk of lower birth weight. Here is a look at some of the main health problems in infants and children associated with secondhand smoke: 
  • Growth and development
  • Lower birth weight
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Decrease in reading, math, logic and reasoning skills    
  • Respiratory problems
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Reduced lung function 

Other health problems related to secondhand smoke
  • Middle ear infections
  • Chronic coughing, phlegm and wheezing
  • Eye and nose irritation
  • Reduced lung function
  • Irritability 
  • Dental cavities
If you can smell cigarette smoke odors on clothes, furniture, from ashtrays, etc., then cancer-causing particulates are still present. It takes about two weeks to get nicotine out of the air in rooms where people have smoked. Children can experience toxic effects from the ingestion of cigarettes and cigarette butts they find around the house in ashtrays and in the garbage.

What can you do?
  • Quit smoking. Remain quit if you stopped during your pregnancy.
  • Express your concerns about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on your family.
  • Request a smoke-free home. Gently ask the smokers to smoke outside. Make it easy for them by having chairs, a table and an ashtray on the porch, balcony or yard.
  • Do not allow smoking in your car.