Secondhand Smoke Effects on Children | Gleneagles Hospitals
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Children’s Health

Secondhand Smoke Effects on Children

21 February 2024 · 3 mins read


Find out more about the effects and risks of secondhand smoke exposure on children.

Smoke that you did not intend to inhale is known as secondhand smoke or passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke. It is a mixture of the smoke exhaled by smokers (mainstream smoke) and the smoke produced by burning tobacco (sidestream smoke).

Secondhand smoke contains many harmful substances, including carcinogens and toxins, which can pose serious health risks to non-smokers.

Carpets, furniture, toys, and people's clothing are all affected by smoke. This "thirdhand smoke" refers to the residual tobacco smoke pollutants that remain on surfaces and in dust, air, and other materials in indoor environments after active smoking has occurred and the air has cleared.

Thirdhand smoke will not be quickly washed away with cleanser and water. Children who touch surfaces that have third-party smoke on them will breathe in the harmful chemicals through their skin. 

Effects and Risks of Secondhand Smoke Exposure on Children

Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to children due to their developing bodies and the fact that they often have limited control over their environment. 

Secondhand smoke poses the following significant risks to children:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies - sudden and unanticipated death of an otherwise healthy infant. 
  • Respiratory problems and infections - pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma.
  • Increased occurrence of ear infections they have fluid in their middle ear more often requiring more surgeries to drain the fluid.This may lead to hearing loss later in childhood.
  • Dental caries.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke may be linked to developmental delays in children, including cognitive and behavioural issues.

Children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking during adolescence. Exposure to secondhand smoke, particularly during childhood, can have long-term effects that may persist into adulthood such as lung cancer, other cancers, heart disease, and poor lung development.

Steps to Protect Children from Secondhand Smoke

Protecting children from secondhand smoke is crucial for their health and well-being. You can reduce the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke by doing the following:

  • Make your home and car smoke-free.
  • Ask visitors to smoke outside.
  • Move away from a smoker. Smokers should avoid being at a close distance to others when smoking.
  • Use air purifiers to help improve indoor air quality.
  • Keep living spaces well-ventilated to reduce the concentration of secondhand smoke pollutants. After cigarettes are lit, smoke remains in the air for several hours. Therefore, even if a person smokes alone in a room, others will eventually inhale the smoke as well.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. If quitting is not an immediate option, smoke outside and away from children. Be a positive role model for children by demonstrating healthy behaviours.

Make an Appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

Get in touch with us to find out more about our Paediatrics Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital if you have any concerns or questions about secondhand smoke.

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