Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke… Give your children a chance

Startling Statistics

  • Approximately 26% of adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes, and 50 to 67% of children under five years of age live in homes with at least one adult smoker.
  • Environmental tobacco smoke in the United States is linked annually with 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and 36,000 deaths from heart disease; 300,000 cases of infant respiratory infection; and 26,000 new cases and 1 million exacerbated cases of asthma in children.
  • An estimated 9 million children under the age of five breathe secondhand smoke regularly, usually in the home.
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, and more than 40 of these are known to cause cancer in humans and animals. It has been declared a Class A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Effects on the Ears

  • Exposure to second hand smoke increases both the number of ear infections a child will experience, and the duration of the illness.  Inhaled smoke irritates the eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose with the middle ear, leading to pain, fluid and infection.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to a build up of fluid in the middle ear, the most common cause of surgery for children.

Effects on the Lungs and Respiratory Tracts

  • EPA estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the number of episodes and the severity of symptoms for 200,000 to one million asthmatic children.
  • EPA states that ETS causes 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections each year in children under 18 months of age.  These illnesses result in as many as 15,000 hospitalizations.
  • About 20% of children’s asthma cases are caused by parental smoking.
  • Children of smokers are more susceptible to colds and other upper respiratory infections.
  • Between 8,000 and 26,000 children will develop asthma each year if their parents smoke ten or more cigarettes a day.
  • Secondhand smoke is associated with a small but significant reduction in lung function and has been found to cause a slower growth of lung volume.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke puts children at increased risk of developing lung cancer in later life.

Effects on the Newborn

  • Infants exposed to secondhand smoke are three times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as children whose parents do not smoke.
  • Smoking mothers produce less milk, and their babies have lower birth weight.
  • Children of mothers who smoked during and after pregnancy are more likely to suffer behavioral problems such as hyperactivity than children of non-smoking mothers.


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