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Passive smoking

smoke; smoking; air; breathe; lungs; passive; passive smoking; pregnancy; tobacco; cigarette; teeth; tooth; decay; pregnancy; car; driving ;

When someone smokes, tiny invisible particles mix with the surrounding air. These particles are breathed in by anyone near the smoker and get right down into their lungs. This can be harmful to health, especially in children.

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Whenever people smoke, all the others around them are smoking too because they breathe in the same harmful substances as the person who is smoking. When children or adults breathe in other people's smoke (second hand smoke), it is commonly known as passive smoking.

When someone smokes, tiny invisible particles mix with the surrounding air. These particles are breathed in by anyone near the smoker and get right down into their lungs. This can be harmful to health, especially in children.

It's easy to protect your children from passive smoking - make your home and car smoke-free. It is now illegal in South Australia to smoke in a car while a child is also in the car.

Dangerous substances in cigarette smoke

Scientific studies have shown that passive smoke contains many dangerous chemicals. There are many different chemicals in tobacco smoke that may be breathed in by someone who is near a smoker. They also stick to clothes, furniture, walls and inside the car. Some of these chemicals are:

chemicals in cigarettes
  • Tar - made up of many chemicals including cancer causing substances.
  • Carbon monoxide - that lowers the amount of oxygen your blood can carry.
  • Poisons - including arsenic, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.
Graphic courtesy of Smoke Free Homes and Cars Project
Tobacco Control Unit, SA Department of Health

    What passive smoking does

    As well as irritating the eyes and airways, passive smoking increases the risk of illnesses in children such as:

    • pneumonia
    • bronchitis
    • coughing and wheezing
    • middle ear infections
    • more serious asthma attacks (and it increases the number of children with asthma).

    Smoking during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby by either parent increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

    According to the World Health Organisation

    • Children's passive smoking increases their risk of developing heart disease and cancer as an adult.
    • In some children, it may also be a contributing factor in learning and language difficulties, and behavioural problems.
    • It has been shown that young children exposed to passive smoking have more dental decay than other children.
    • Recent research has also shown that passive smokers are more likely to develop diabetes than people who are not exposed to smoking.
    ashtray Childhood illnesses are distressing for the child, and worrying and expensive for parents. To minimise the risk of illnesses in children, protect them from passive smoking.
    Graphic courtesy of Smoke Free Homes and Cars Project
    Tobacco Control Unit, SA Department of Health

    Smoking in pregnancy

    • The baby is likely to be smaller at birth.
    • The mother is more likely to have a miscarriage.
    • There may be more chance of the baby being stillborn.
    • Women whose partners smoke have a higher risk of the baby not growing well in the womb.
    • Smoking during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby by either parent increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

    Researchers have found another problem for children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy. A study in Norway showed that these children were more likely to have rule-breaking and aggressive behaviour as adolescents and be more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). They were also more likely to have emotional and social problems.

    For more information 'Smoking during pregnancy'

    Smoking injuries

    Apart from the dangers of passive smoking there are other risks to children who are around people who smoke.

    • Poisoning: cigarettes and cigarette ash are poisonous and eating  even one butt can make a young child sick. Keep cigarettes and ashtrays away from children.
    • Burns: cigarettes can seriously burn children.
    • Matches and lighters: these can cause burns and can (and do) also start house fires and other fires. Keep them away from children.
    • Motor vehicle accidents: smoking while driving increases the likelihood of having an accident.

    What you can do

    It 's easy to protect your children from passive smoking...

    • make your home and car smoke-free. In South Australia it is now illegal to smoke in a car if children are also in the car.
    smokefree house smokefree car
    Graphic courtesy of Smoke Free Homes and Cars Project
    Tobacco Control Unit, SA Department of Health

    If you are a smoker, you could also decide to...

    • only ever smoke outside
    • never smoke around children.

    If this is not possible, then...

    • never smoke in the car when children are with you.  
    • limit your smoking at home to one room, where your children don't go
    • if you smoke outside when they are around, avoid smoke drifting in their direction.

    Every step you take to protect children from passive smoke will help improve their health.

    For more information

    SA Health: South Australian Tobacco Control Strategy 2011-2016

    When you have visitors?

    When you have decided that your family are going to go smoke-free, you will need to let your visitors know too. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask a guest not to smoke. The easiest way to make your visitors aware is to put up stickers in your home and car - even amusing ones can make your point. Pointing out the stickers gives you a chance to let people know that things have changed. (Or if you are non-smokers that you do not want people to smoke in your house or car.)

    You might want to put stickers...

    • next to the main entrance to the house
    • on the dashboard of the car
    • anywhere inside where visitors might usually smoke.

    What if visitors still wish to smoke?

    Sometimes it might be hard for people close to you to change their smoking habits when they visit. This might include family members, close friends or neighbours. They might feel that the occasional cigarette does little harm and so it's "OK" to smoke in your home or car. But every cigarette causes damage. No one should smoke around others, especially around children. Tell them why you have gone smoke-free and show them this information. It may help them understand your decision.

    Stopping smoking

    Have a look at the topic  Smoking - giving up smoking.  

    New smoke-free law in South Australia

    Changes to the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 mean that from 31 May 2012

    • Smoking is banned within 10 metres of children's public playground equipment.
    • Smoking is banned under covered public transport waiting areas, including bus, tram, train and taxi shelters and other areas used to board or alight from public transport that are covered by a roof.
    • Local councils and other incorporated bodies can apply to have an outdoor area or event declared smoke-free.
    • The age that a person can be fined for smoking-related offences has been reduced to 15 years.

    For more information about the purpose of this law, who will enforce it and what the fines will be, have a look at this information from the Deaprtment of Health, South Australia: 
    Tobacco control in South Australia   

    Remember

    • If you smoke around your kids they smoke too.
    • Make your home and your car smoke free.
    • If you decide that now would be a good time to quit smoking, support is available.

    Resources

    South Australia

    Australia

    World Health Organisation

     

    Information in languages other than English

    NSW Health

    References

    American Academy of Pediatrics - multiple papers on passive smoking
    http://www.aap.org

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)

    Oxygen - information for young people about smoking
    http://www.oxygen.org.au

    World Health Organisation Tobacco Free Initiative
    http://www.who.int/tobacco/en/

    Burke H, Leonardi-Bee J et al 'Prenatal and passive smoke exposure and incidence of asthma and wheeze: systematic review and meta-analysis' Pediatrics 19-03-2012 
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/03/14/peds.2011-2196.full.pdf 

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    The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

    This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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