Second-hand smoke is especially dangerous to our children and is the leading cause of environmental death in NZ. Stay smoke free so you can keep your children safe so they can live long and healthy lives.
Second-hand smoke refers to when you're exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco because a person is smoking in an area near you. Second-hand smoke is smoke that a person has breathed out (exhaled smoke) and also smoke from a burning cigarette.
Second-hand smoke is the greatest environmental cause of death in NZ. There are no safe amounts of exposure to second-hand smoke – people who are exposed can suffer many of the same diseases that regular smokers get, like lung cancer, coronary heart disease, nasal sinus cancer and acute stroke.
Children are at higher risk
Nothing is more important than our children, who are especially susceptible to second-hand smoke because of their lower body weight and smaller lungs. Children must be protected from second-hand smoke since it can increase the risk of:
- Restricted lung growth.
- Middle ear infections (such as otitis media/glue ear).
- Lower respiratory illness (such as bronchitis, croup, pneumonia and bronchiolitis).
- The beginning or worsening of asthma.
- Meningococcal disease.
- Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI also called cot death or SIDS) with a doubling of the risk – statistic from PubMed, USA.
- It can also influence a child’s learning progression and behaviour.
- Exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy can reduce foetal growth and lead to other complications (information from Health Promotion Agency, NZ).
Negative effects of parental smoking (both before and after birth) on children's respiratory health have been confirmed. With asthma being strongly linked with mothers smoking during pregnancy, however exposure to second-hand smoke after birth is also linked with many other respiratory problems.
"All tobacco smoke exposure has serious consequences for children's respiratory health and needs to be reduced urgently." (Information from Pubmed: Parental smoking and children’s respiratory health: independent effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure).
NZ Health Survey
The latest results from the New Zealand Health Survey (during 2012/13) suggest:
- about 4% of non-smoking adults and 6% of children suffer exposure to second-hand smoke in their homes.
- The rates for Māori children though are three times higher than non-Māori children, putting Māori children at much higher risk of adverse effects.
- Nine out of 10 people agree that smoking in cars with a child passenger should be illegal.
There is strong evidence that there is no safe amount of exposure to second-hand smoke. This is particularly worrying as children are usually unable to get away from second-hand smoke and are therefore more at risk to its effects. (Source: Health Promotion Agency, NZ).
Tips on protecting your children from second-hand smoke
- Make your home and car strictly smokefree areas, 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- Ask for support from your family/whānau by following your no smoking house and car rules.
- Throw away all the ashtrays in your home.
- Get rid of all your lighters.
- Be a good role model, never smoke in front of children. This can reduce the risk of them growing up to be smokers.
- If you smoke, get support to stop now. Support doubles your chance of staying quit.
Why quit smoking Quitline, NZ
Smokefree 2025 Health Promotion Agency, NZ
Smokefree cars & homes Health Promotion Agency, NZ
Information and tools – second-hand smoke Smokefree NZ & Health Promotion Agency, NZ
Tobacco control Health Promotion Agency, NZ
Can interventions for parents and people caring for children reduce children's exposure to tobacco smoke? The Cochrane Collaboration, 2014
Parental smoking and children’s respiratory health: independent effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure. Tobacco Control, 15(4), 294–301. http://doi.org/10.1136/tc.2005.015065