Homes - Indoor Air Quality
Secondhand Smoke & Children's Health
about 9 - 12 million young children are regularly exposed
to their parents cigarette smoke at home. This translates
into approximately 27% of American households with young
children that allow smoking indoors. The Environmental Protection
Agencys (EPA) goal is to reduce this figure to 15%
by 2005, in part by implementing a new outreach campaign.
The key message of the campaign is until you can quit, smoke
outside for your kids.
and young children whose parents smoke are among the most
seriously affected by exposure to secondhand smoke, being
at increased risk for a number of health problems, including
lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and
bronchitis. EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible
for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract
infections in infants and children under 18 months of age
annually, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations
each year. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also
more likely to suffer symptoms of respiratory irritation
like coughing, wheezing, and excess phlegm. Secondhand smoke
can also lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, the
most common cause of hospitalization of children for an
with asthma are especially at risk. EPA estimates that between
200,000 and 1,000,000 children with asthma have had their
condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke. This
pollutant may also cause thousands of children without asthma
to develop the condition each year.
is Secondhand Smoke?
tobacco smoke is the smoke inhaled by nonsmokers -- smoke
in the air from someone smoking cigarettes, cigars, or
pipes in the indoor environment.
smoke is sometimes called "environmental tobacco
smoke," "ETS," "involuntary smoking,"
or "passive smoke."
smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 200 of which are
known poisons. About 40 of these chemicals could cause
the late 1980s, the Surgeon General and the National Academy
of Sciences National Research Council reported involuntary
smoke could cause cancer in healthy nonsmokers.
smoke can be an irritant to the body -- it can cause other
acute and chronic health problems.
example, exposure to secondhand smoke increases irritation
of the eyes, nose, and throat. Lung irritation from exposure
to secondhand smoke can cause coughing, excess phlegm,
chest discomfort, and reduced lung capacity.
studies show secondhand smoke could increase the risk
factors for heart disease. Also highly important, secondhand
smoke causes serious health problems in children.
smoke actually includes 2 types of smoke:
smoke" is the smoke that the cigarette, pipe,
or cigar smoker inhales and exhales.
smoke" is the smoke which goes directly into
the air from the burning cigarette, pipe, or cigar
while it rests in the ashtray or is held by the smoker.
Sidestream smoke is the primary source of smoke in
room air. Sidestream smoke has a high concentration
of dangerous chemicals.
smoke is a health concern, especially for young children.
lungs of young children are still developing and are
particularly sensitive to the effects of secondhand
are also vulnerable to exposure to secondhand smoke
because they must depend on parents, care-givers,
and other adults to keep their environment healthy.
Children are typically exposed involuntarily to secondhand
Young Children and Secondhand Smoke.
1986, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimated
that 9-12 million children under age 5 are exposed to secondhand
smoke in the home. The health consequences are immense.
For example, from 200,000 to 1 million children with asthma
have had their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand
of smokers experience a wide variety of acute and chronic
instances of disease and hospitalization
risk of premature death
with growth and development
quality of life
recent article in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
reviewed all research on childrens health and tobacco
smoking from 1980 to 1996. This article concluded that parental
smoking is a major health risk for children and results
in annual direct medical expenses of $4.6 billion in their
children -- 8% of all pediatric medical spending. This includes
5.4 million excess cases of disease and 6,200 excess childhood
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine article also
showed that as a group, children of smokers who are regularly
exposed to secondhand smoke experience:
rates of bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in the first
lung function as they get older
episodes aggravated or triggered by secondhand smoke
likelihood to develop asthma
numbers of acute respiratory illnesses
ear infections and hearing problems
recovery from colds and other illnesses
days of school missed due to illnes
with secondhand smoke can mean that children suffer from
recurrent coughs, wheezing, stuffy noses, headaches, sore
throats, eye irritation, ear infections, hoarseness, dizziness,
nausea, loss of appetite, lack of energy, and fussiness.
addition, the same article reviewed medical research that
strongly suggests infants of women smokers have an increased
risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
1997 California EPA study on childrens health reinforced
many of the findings in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
Medicine article, and uncovered some additional, definitive
results as well. The California EPA study found that secondhand
smoke exposure to children also causes lung and nasal sinus
cancer and heart disease.
study links secondhand smoke exposure and children with
asthma. U.S. EPAs 1992 Risk Assessment on secondhand
smoke found that exposure:
additional episodes and increased severity of symptoms
in children with asthma
physical conditions in an estimated 400,000 to 1 million
children with asthma
you are a parent:
your children an opportunity to grow up in a smoke-free
you cannot quit smoking, then make every effort to remove
secondhand smoke from your childrens environment.
can parents do to reduce their childrens exposure
to secondhand smoke?
not smoke in the home
not smoke in cars that children ride in
others to avoid smoking in the home or car
the smoking policies of the places where your children
spend time -- such as schools, pre-schools, daycare providers,
homes of friends, and community centers -- to make sure
that children are guaranteed a smoke-free environment.
your health care provider about the health risks to your
children if they spend time in a home with a smoker.
a child does live with a smoker, ask that this be noted
on their medical records. This will be useful information
if the child develops health problems in the future.
can you do to reduce your and your familys exposure
to secondhand smoke and the resulting health risks?
not allow smoking in your home.
smoke is a major health risk, especially to children.
It is a health risk that is preventable. Although you
can take measures to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke,
such as increasing ventilation, opening windows, or using
exhaust fans, nothing is as effective as simply not smoking
in the home.
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