How secondhand smoke affects the people you love
Did you know that quitting smoking isn't just good for your health? By quitting smoking, you can also improve the health and wellbeing of the people who help to make life worthwhile: your family.1
Many smokers are surprised to learn just how damaging secondhand smoke and passive smoking can be. The trick is to use that knowledge as extra motivation to help you quit smoking. And while you are getting ready to quit, we'll provide you with some helpful tips to minimise the amount of secondhand smoke your nearest and dearest are exposed to.
But first, let's see how passive smoking might be affecting other family members, starting with the most vulnerable.
Your unborn baby
Smoking during pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy can cause health problems for both mum and baby1, including an increased risk of:
- still birth2
- premature birth2
- a low birth weight baby2
- complications during birth2
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)2
- impaired lung development in the unborn baby.3
It's best to quit smoking before you are pregnant, but it's never too late to quit. If you stop smoking at any stage during your pregnancy, both you and your baby will benefit by getting more oxygen.1
Passive smoking during pregnancy
Non-smoking women who are exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy are at risk of any of the effects of passive smoking, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and other cancers.2
Secondhand smoke may also affect the pregnancy and unborn baby, possibly increasing the risk of changes to the baby's lung structure, miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects.3
It's important for pregnant women to do everything they can to protect themselves and their unborn child from the effects of secondhand smoke. One of the simplest ways to do this is to make your home, car and any other enclosed spaces completely smoke-free.2
Do you have children at home? Lighting up around them puts them at increased risk of many health problems.2 Young children are most likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home and they usually can't choose to leave a smoke-filled place, making it harder for them to avoid secondhand smoke.4 Children of parents who smoke are also more likely to take up smoking themselves.1 So it's up to parents to do everything they can to reduce their children's exposure to secondhand smoke and be the best role models they can.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of:
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)2
- respiratory illnesses, including colds, coughs, middle ear infections, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia2
- meningococcal disease2
- asthma – they're more likely to have asthma symptoms, have more severe and frequent asthma attacks, and use asthma medicines more often and for longer.2,5 Severe asthma attacks can put your child's life in danger.5
People who have never smoked themselves, but live with a partner who smokes, have an increased risk of many health problems including:2
- heart disease, heart attack and stroke – secondhand smoke affects blood vessels, may lead to narrowing of the arteries, and makes blood stickier and more likely to clot
- lung cancer – people who have had long-term exposure to secondhand smoke have a 20–30% increased risk of developing lung cancer
- other cancers – there is increasing evidence that passive smoking can increase the risk of other cancers, including throat and breast cancer
- respiratory problems – both short- and long-term problems and loss of lung function.
How you can protect the people you love
The sooner you quit smoking, the more likely you are to improve your own health and the health of your whole family.6
So, if you're committed to quitting, talk to your doctor about creating a quit plan that will protect your health and the health of the people you most care about. With your doctor's help you could be up to 4x more likely to quit successfully, compared to people who try to quit by themselves.7
Until you have given up, you can reduce your family's exposure to secondhand smoke by:
- making your home completely smoke-free: no arguments, no exceptions. It's not enough to limit smoking to certain rooms in the house, as tobacco smoke can still drift to other rooms.2
- never smoking in the car – not even with the windows open.2 It is illegal to smoke with children and adolescents in the car in every state and territory in Australia.8
- not allowing smoking in any enclosed spaces where your family or other non-smokers spend time – like in the garage, garden shed, boat, caravan or cubby house2
- avoiding outdoor areas where smoking is allowed2
- making sure anyone who cares for your children is a non-smoker themselves and provides them with a smoke-free environment.2
But remember, quitting smoking is the first step towards protecting the people you love from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke.6
Take the first step
The first step to quitting starts with a doctor. Find out how you can get the help you need.