Health Tips & Articles

The importance of a smoke-free environment for your child

by Alison E. Wondriska, MD

Secondhand smoke is the smoke from a smoker's cigarette and exhaled breath.  Such smoke contains chemicals that can have many negative effects on a child's health. 

Some of these effects can occur before the baby is even born.  For example, women who are exposed to smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby who is born early (premature) or who has a lower-than-normal birth weight when born on time.  Such babies are more likely to develop learning and attention problems as they grow up.

Infants who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at greater risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  We also know that babies who live in a home with a caregiver who smokes are more likely to come down with ear infections than infants who live in smoke-free homes.  Secondhand smoke can trigger wheezing or an asthma attack in these babies as well.

Children who live in a home with a parent who smokes get sick more often than children from smoke-free homes and are more likely to get pneumonia from a common cold than are other children.  Secondhand smoke can cause an asthma attack in an older child, too.

As a parent, you want to help your child stay healthy.  If you are a cigarette smoker, one of the best ways to do this is to quit smoking!  In addition, be sure not to allow anyone to smoke near your child.  There should be no smokers in the home, in the car, or in any other place where the child receives care, such as at a grandparent's home or at daycare.

It can be very difficult to quit smoking.  Many people find it easier to quit by teaming up with another smoker and quitting together.  Setting a "quit date" is helpful, as is planning to do something special with the money you'll save from no longer buying cigarettes. 

Talk to your doctor or to your child's doctor about interventions that can help prevent the craving for cigarettes and increase the chances that your efforts in quitting are successful.

Some additional free resources include:

QuitWorks, a source of telephone support and nicotine patches.  
- 1-800-784-8669 (1-800- QUIT-NOW) for English

- 1-800-833-5256 for Spanish

Web sites such as and

Texting services such as and




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