Secondhand smoke dangers

Impact of Secondhand Smoke on Children

Children are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke (SHS) because their lungs are still developing; they have higher breathing rates than adults; and they have little control over their indoor environments. Possible effects of secondhand smoke on children include:

  • Asthma in children who have not previously exhibited symptoms
  • Asthma attacks and worsened asthma symptoms for children with a history of asthma
  • Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Increased risk of middle ear infections Each year in the US, secondhand smoke is associated with an estimated 8,000– 26,000 new asthma cases in children and 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children 18 months and younger. 7,500–15,000 of these children require hospitalization.

More incentive to reduce secondhand smoke

  • Secondhand smoke exposure impairs a child's ability to learn, putting them at increased risk for difficulties with reading and math
  • Tobacco-related health complications are major contributors to missed school days by students, impacting negatively on their learning and requiring parents to miss work
  • Pets exposed to secondhand smoke have higher rates of cancer
  • Smoke damages furniture, curtains, rugs and other furnishings
  • Cigarette burns cause damage and fires
  • Homeowner insurance rates are often lower for smoke-free homes
  • Smoke and burns damage the interior of vehicles and reduces their resale value

Tips for reducing smoke in your environment

  • Until you can quit, smoke outside. Moving to another room or opening a window is not enough to protect your children.
  • Limit smoking to outings, such as checking the mail or walking the dog
  • Don't allow anyone else to smoke inside your home either; ask family, visitors and people who work in your home to smoke outside too
  • Remove ashtrays and put lighters, cigarettes, and matches out of sight

Secondhand Smoke Research

It's not a smoking gun, but it's smoking-related, and it's there in bright medical images: evidence of microscopic structural damage deep in the lungs, caused by secondhand cigarette smoke. For the first time, this MRI technique shows secondhand smoke damage to lungs. Researchers have identified lung injury to nonsmokers that was long suspected, but not previously detectable with medical imaging tools. Researchers also noted that damage occurs with just thirty minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The slides indicate (a) a subject with low exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke; (b) a subject with high exposure; (c) a smoker. (Generally, the red areas mean relatively healthy parts, and the yellow areas mean relatively abnormal.) (Credit: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Virginia.)

Smoking and infertility

Infertility is a common problem, occurring in one out of six couples. Cigarette smoking reduces both female and male fertility.

Women and infertility:

  • Smoking has a negative effect on the ovaries and uterine wall, reducing a woman’s chance of conception. Research shows that smoking may reduce the embryo’s ability to implant in the lining of the uterus.
  • Women who smoke may experience a poor response to hormone stimulation when being treated for infertility with in-vitro fertilization or embryo transfer.
  • Heavy smokers have a higher likelihood of having abnormal vaginal bleeding than nonsmokers.
  • Women who smoke are prone to early menopause.
  • In some women infertility can be reversed after smoking cessation.

Men and infertility:

  • The more men smoke, the more the ability of sperm to bind to an egg is diminished. Smoking is linked to low sperm counts and sluggish moving sperm.
  • It takes at least 21⁄2 months to see improvement in sperm count and motility after quitting.
  • Smoking can gradually and permanently damage blood vessels throughout the body, including those that carry blood to the penis. This can make it difficult to get or maintain an erection.
  • Men who quit smoking often have fewer problems achieving a normal erection.
  • When both partners smoke there is a 64% increase in miscarriages.

Smoking and pregnancy

Quitting smoking during pregnancy

Quitting, especially during pregnancy, can be difficult. We are here to support you and your baby. Quitting may not be easy, but with advice and guidance it is possible. Women who quit smoking before or early in pregnancy reduce the risk for several adverse outcomes. In the United States, approximately 25% of women smoke during pregnancy. Smoking before and during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. When women who smoke start to think about having children, they also need to think about quitting smoking.

Effects of smoking on pregnancy

Women who smoke are:

  • Twice as likely to experience a delay in conception and have 30% higher odds of being infertile.
  • Twice as likely to experience premature rupture of membranes, placental abruption and placenta previa during pregnancy.
  • At a greater risk of stillbirths, miscarriages and ectopic (outside the uterus) pregnancy.
  • More likely to have complications during delivery.

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy:

  • Have a 30% greater risk of being born prematurely.
  • Are more likely to be born with low birth weight increasing their risk of illness or death. The more women smoke the higher the risk of low birth weight.
  • Are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • May have congenital malformations such as cleft palate.
  • Are more likely to have lung problems, more colds, and coughs.
  • May have learning disabilities.
  • Are more likely to smoke when they get older because they see their parents smoking.

Many women are able to quit during pregnancy. They are motivated to quit for their babies as well as themselves. If you are pregnant and need help quitting call us at (516) 466-1980. We are here to help.