How does my smoking affect others?

Cigarette smoke is harmful to everyone who breathes it in, from your friends and family to children and pets.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke refers to the smoke from the end of your cigarette and the smoke exhaled from your lungs that hangs around in the air. When the people around you breathe in this smoke, it's called passive smoking.

Secondhand smoke is a cause of early death and disease in children and non-smoking adults; there is no safe level of exposure.

Effects of passive smoking

Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease and lung cancer in non-smokers, and increase the risk of:

  • Respiratory diseases (such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia);
  • heart attacks;
  • developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus;
  • infections; and
  • plaque build-up in arteries (which can cause strokes and dementia).

Non-smokers can also experience eye, nasal and throat irritation, the presence of a cough, wheezing and shortness of breath.

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When infants and children are exposed to secondhand smoke, they are at increased risk of:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
  • lower respiratory illnesses;
  • middle ear disease;
  • cough, phlegm, wheeze and breathlessness;
  • more severe asthma;
  • slow lung growth;
  • poor lung function; and
  • disruptive behavioural disorders including ADHD.

If you are a smoker, it is more likely your kids will take up the habit too. The greater the number of years adolescents were exposed to a parent smoking as a child, the greater their risk of becoming smokers or experimenting with cigarettes.

You can read more about smoking and parenthood in the advice for parents brochure.

Smoking and pregnancy

If you are pregnant, smoking can increase the risk of harm to you and your baby. It is also important that your loved ones do not smoke around you as this may affect the baby’s growth and reduce the baby’s birth weight.

Learn more about the effects of smoking during pregnancy.
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Smoking and pets

Depending on the type of pet, research has shown smoking around our furry friends can increase their risk of certain cancers and health issues including nasal, sinus and oral cancer, lung cancer, allergies, eye problems and respiratory problems.

How to protect your loved ones from secondhand smoke

The best way to protect your loved ones is to quit smoking. The desire to protect friends, family and pets can be a great motivator to quit. Not only will you reduce their exposure to secondhand smoke, but you will also:

  • Decrease the risk of your children becoming smokers themselves;
  • have more time, energy and stamina to play with your children; and
  • protect them from the dangerous chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

Thirdhand smoke

Thirdhand smoke occurs when cigarette smoke settles onto floors, walls, clothing, furniture, dust and other objects. This toxic residue is difficult to get rid of and accumulates over time. When disturbed, it can be inhaled, digested or absorbed through your skin. Children and pets are most at risk, as they are more likely to spend time on the floor or put objects into their mouths. If you hold a child after smoking a cigarette, you could be exposing them to thirdhand smoke from your clothing, hair and skin. A small study of babies admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit the day they were born found nicotine contamination in their urine after visits from family members who smoke.

Are you ready to quit now?

If you are ready to quit smoking...

Congratulations on taking the first step towards a healthier life! Quitting smoking can be challenging, but it's one of the best things you can do for your health.

If you are not ready to quit smoking yet...

There are ways you can protect your family from secondhand smoke. For example, you can:

  • Make your home and car smoke-free, no exceptions.
  • Avoid smoking near open windows or doors when smoking outside.
  • Place smoke-free stickers around the home, on your car or on the pram as reminders to yourself and your loved ones (get them here).

Looking for other information?

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Free Quit Support

Talk to the Quitline

The Quitline is a confidential telephone advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking.

My QuitBuddy App

The My QuitBuddy App tracks your quitting progress, such as days smoke-free, cigarettes avoided, health gained and dollars saved.

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