Sign up

Protect Yourself and Your Children From Second Hand Smoke

Parents can take an active role in preventing the risk of breathing disorders in children by reducing the family's exposure to smoke filled environments.

Children's bodies are more sensitive to the air around them. Unlike adults, their bodies are still developing, thus their lungs are smaller and therefore need a faster breathing rate. A child will require more air proportionate to their body mass than their parents and is thus likely to inhale more of the air around them.

Combining these facts with smoke contaminated, air, the child's exposure to health risks becomes significantly raised.

Just by being in a room with a lit cigarette, a child is exposed to thousands of chemicals floating in the air waiting to be introduced to young, susceptible lungs. Over 40 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer with 8 of them Class A carcinogens that have no safe level of exposure.

When a smoker takes a puff from a cigarette, they only inhale a small percentage of the harmful substances in the tobacco. What they exhale into the air is the remaining larger amounts, sometimes in greater concentrations, which forces others to breathe in the same damaging chemicals. Even having just the tip of the cigarette burning will release the chemicals into the environment.

These airborne chemicals have been directly linked to cause eye and nose irritation, heart disease, strokes, and lung and nasal cancer. Additionally, evidence also suggests secondhand smoke has been associated with spontaneous abortion, cystic fibrosis, breast and cervical cancer, and even asthma in adults.

If these symptoms can be attributed to the effect of secondhand smoke in adults, the likeliness of complications in children's health is amplified. Children exposed to a smoker's environment have been found to have experienced decreased lung functions, respiratory infections, reduced oxygen flow to tissues, and increased asthma episodes that tend to be more severe than adults.

These health risks that come with exposure to secondhand smoke can easily be prevented to protect parents and children by following the simple rule of avoidance. Choosing to visit smoke-free places in the community and cleaning up the air that is breathed in homes takes children away from the danger and also teaches them about proper health habits.

A completely smoke-free building is a complete solution to the ethereal qualities of secondhand smoke. Buildings such as these prevent chemicals in the air from spreading room to room. There are already many Calgary establishments that subscribe to being 100 percent smoke-free where parents can choose to go. For a full online list, visit

By making homes completely smoke-free, parents reduce the risk of fires, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and the chance of the family and pets developing damaging health problems. Even smokers who succeed in making the home smoke-free will find a decrease in the temptation to smoke and an increase in savings for the time, energy and money spent on cleaning curtains, walls, windows, and mirrors.

Although the process can be challenging for those who already smoke, there are many ways to ease into a clean air environment. The first step is to discuss with everyone living in the home how to make the living area smoke-free. By weighing the pros and cons it will be easier to convince those living in the home to take part in the process.

Getting the home ready is the second step and can be done by setting up a smoking area outside and removing ashtrays found inside the house. If constant visitors are over who enjoy smoking, consider ways of asking them to practice keeping the home smoke-free. This can feel like an awkward conversation, but by outlining your wishes and the facts on the matter, they should understand.

And most importantly, the final step is to take action. If anyone living in or visiting the home wants to smoke, ensure that there is an outside area available where they can light a cigarette. By even having an alternative to lighting up available, like having gum or mints nearby, the need to smoke can be reduced.

Eliminating the source of smoke from the home ensures that both parents and children are protected from the side effects of long-term exposure to second-hand smoke, allowing healthy development during the early years.

Yvette is the Social Marketing Coordinator, 3 Cheers for the Early Years, Calgary Health Region. For further support on how to quit smoking or keeping the home smoke-free please contact the Calgary Health Region at 943-8020 and ask for the Thinking About Quitting Smoking: Resources in the Calgary Region pamphlet.

Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2024 Calgary’s Child