As you probably already know, smoking harms not only the person who smokes but also those around them. This happens through secondhand smoke and also something called thirdhand smoke.  

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is released into the environment as a result of active smoking. It includes the smoke from the end of a lit cigarette and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of someone who is smoking.  

Thirdhand smoke refers to residual tobacco smoke elements that remain on surfaces and in dust after someone has been smoking. Thirdhand smoke can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Thirdhand smoke is a new area of research and we do not know as much about it and the impact it may have as we do about secondhand smoke.

Make smoking history campaign image of child with cigarette curling around ear

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke increase the risk of ill health in babies and children who are exposed to them, as well as to unborn babies when the mother is exposed to secondhand smoke. When infants and children are exposed to secondhand smoke, it increases their risk of:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 2.5 times
  • Acute chest infections by approximately 50%
  • Chronic respiratory conditions (e.g. asthma) by approximately 32%
  • Middle ear diseases by approximately 30-40%

When a mother is exposed to secondhand smoke whilst pregnant, the unborn baby, is at an increased risk of:

  • Still-birth by 23%
  • Pre-term birth by 20%
  • Congenital malformation by 13%

Babies and children are more at risk of thirdhand smoke exposure as they typically spend more active time on the floor or close to contaminated dust, carpets, blankets and other objects. Babies and children are also more likely to put objects in their mouths that may be contaminated with thirdhand smoke. Whilst researchers are still learning about the health effects of thirdhand smoke some studies have shown that it can have an impact on the functioning of the liver and lungs, may reduce wound healing and increase hyperactive behaviour. If you would like to read more about the research on thirdhand smoke see here.

To read more about how secondhand and thirdhand smoke impacts on other people as well as your pets check out the information page on our website.

Make Smoking History campaign image of fetus in womb with cigarette as umbilical cord with the words "Smoking during pregnancy can cause premature death"@

The best thing a parent can do to protect their family from secondhand and thirdhand smoke is to stop smoking. Other ways to protect children and babies include:

  • Avoiding smoking during pregnancy – this includes both parents
  • Not smoking or allowing others to smoke in or around your home and children
  • Not smoking or allowing anyone to smoke in your car, even with the windows down
  • Spending family time in smoke-free public places

If you are concerned about your child’s health please contact the Ngala parenting line.

Levi and her son smiling at camera

There are more people who have quit smoking today than there are people who continue to smoke. If you are looking for some inspiration on how to stop smoking, check out these real quit stories, or hear Levi talking about the benefits of being smoke-free with a new born.

For more information on quitting methods check this page out. Stopping smoking can be really tough but it is possible!

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Free Quit Support

Talk to the Quitline

Quitline is a confidential advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking. For the cost of a local call (except mobile phones), a trained advisor can help you to plan and develop strategies to quit smoking and stay stopped. You can also use webchat during opening hours.

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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