Secondhand Smoke and Children

Secondhand smoke comes from the tip of a cigarette and the smoke that is breathed back out by the smoker. Wherever people smoke, there is secondhand smoke in the air although you might not notice it because it is almost invisible and odorless.

Even if you open a window, secondhand smoke will still be present in a room after two and a half hours! Even if you can't see or smell any smoke, it's probably still there.

It is illegal to smoke in a car (or other vehicle) with anyone under 18. The law changed on 1 October 2015, to protect children and young people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Being in a smoky atmosphere immediately puts your body under pressure. Your eyes may become sore. You may even feel sick. As well as these unpleasant symptoms, there is more serious long term damage being done to your organs. SECONDHAND SMOKE CONTAINS 4,000 TOXIC CHEMICALS.

Scientific evidence now clearly shows the link between secondhand smoke and many life-threatening conditions:

  • Risk of lung cancer up by 24%
  • Risk of heart disease up by 25%

(source: Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health)

Breathing in secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks and also increase your chances of developing breathing and other chest problems.

Children are particularly affected by secondhand smoke because their bodies are still developing, and around half of all British children are growing up in homes where at least one parent is a smoker.

If children breathe in secondhand smoke, their chance of getting asthmas doubles. And, if they already have asthma, it's definitely making their breathing worse.

Secondhand Smoke Facts

  • Secondhand smoke harms everyone - non-smokers, ex-smokers and smokers alike
  • It exposes babies to a greater risk of cot death
  • Smoking near children is a cause of serious respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of children developing asthma and causes asthma attacks
  • Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer
  • Secondhand smoke is composed of over 4000 chemicals
  • You never know where it is because 85% of it is invisible and odourless
  • So waving away any smoke you can see is pointless
  • Secondhand smoke can linger for 2 1/2 hours, even with a window open
  • 95% of deaths associated with secondhand smoke are from exposure in the home
  • Babies and children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to get coughs and colds, as well as middle ear disease, which can cause deafness

One of the best things you can do to protect other people and children is to keep your home smokefree by smoking outside as smoke can linger for up to two-and-a-half-hours.

This is the perfect time to quit, and did you know that you are up to four times more likely to successfully go smokefree if you use the free Stop Smoking Service and use medication like patches or gum to help cope with your cravings. Contact the service to find out more.

Please note, some of the content has been adapted from

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