The dangers of secondhand smoke

Children are susceptible to dangers associated with secondhand smoke.

It is not safe to smoke cigarettes around children and, more importantly, it is not safe to smoke at all. But if adults determine they want to smoke, then they can consider this information for keeping their children safe and healthy.

Smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco is detrimental to your health. Smoking can be addicting, which makes it difficult to quit. Tobacco products damage many organs in your body and can cause heart disease and cancer.

Why is smoking bad for your health?

Tobacco contains a chemical called “nicotine” that gives smokers a pleasant feeling. People get addicted to that good feeling. Electronic cigarettes and “vapes” also deliver nicotine. Just because these products are popular does not mean they are safe. In addition to the nicotine, tobacco products have other poisonous chemicals in them. These toxic substances can poison your body over time, especially your heart and lungs.

According to the American Heart Association, some of the thousands of chemicals found in cigarette smoke or smokeless tobacco are also found in other familiar things:

  • Acetone — nail polish remover
  • Hydrogen cyanide — insecticide
  • Methanol — antifreeze
  • Cadmium — batteries
  • Hydrazine — rocket fuel
  • Toluene — paint thinner
  • Polonium 210 — nuclear waste
  • Formaldehyde — embalming fluid
  • Lead — once used in paint
  • Nitrosamines — cancer-causing substances
  • Arsenic— used in pesticides
  • Propylene glycol – automobile anti-freeze

Now that we have reviewed the chemicals found in cigarettes, would you drink any of them? Would you give your baby or child any of these chemicals in a bottle or cup? That is essentially what you are doing when you smoke around them. It may not be as potent as the exact chemical, but over time smoking will have adverse effects from secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is smoke inhaled involuntarily from tobacco being smoked by another.

Effects of secondhand smoke

Children are most affected by secondhand smoke and least able to avoid it (because they have no control over their parents or caretakers actions). The secondhand smoke can come from adults smoking at home or in the car. Children who have parents who smoke are more likely to have the following health issues:

  • Asthma and asthma attacks
  • Lung infections
  • Ear infections
  • Colds including increased coughing and wheezing
  • Tooth decay

Many people think their children will not be affected by secondhand smoke if they smoke outside, in a different room in the house or in the car with the window open. All of these scenarios are false. Children can still be affected by secondhand smoke in the above-mentioned situations. Smoke can get in the parents’ clothes, hair, skin and in the areas where children are sitting or sleeping. If you can smell the smoke, then the chemicals are entering into your body and causing harm.

Did you know there is also something called “thirdhand smoke?” According to the American Cancer Society, thirdhand smoke is when the harmful toxins remain in places where people have smoked. Thirdhand smoke can be found in walls and upholstery.

Many times, children and teens watch and mimic what they see adults doing. Research from the American Cancer Society has shown that teen tobacco users are more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs than are non-users. Cigarette smokers are also more likely to get into fights, carry weapons, attempt suicide, suffer from mental health problems such as depression, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. This doesn’t necessarily mean tobacco use caused these behaviors, but they’re more common in teens that use tobacco.

The American Cancer Society says if you smoke, one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your children is to stop smoking. Quitting is the best way to prevent your children from being exposed to secondhand smoke. It may be hard to quit, but you can talk to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician if you need help. 


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