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.

Sihloette of child's head with cigarette curling around ear in the shape of a hearing aid. Make Smoking History logo. Text reads "smoking around kids causes glue ear"

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke increase the risk of ill health in babies, children and even pets who are exposed to them. When a mother smokes or is exposed to secondhand smoke it is also very harmful for a child before they are even born. 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:

  • Stillbirth 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 toys. 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.

Drawing 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 all parents/carers
  • Not smoking or allowing others to around your loved ones, in your home or in your car
  • 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.

If you're ready to quit for good, stop by our tips page or make a free Quit Plan to get you on your way.

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