Secondhand Smoke Is Destroying Children's Health: Health Effects, Risks and Prevention

There are hundreds of harmful substances in tobacco smoke, and at least 69 of them are known to be carcinogens.

Children are at a critical stage of growth and development, in which their nervous system, endocrine system as well as immune function are not well developed. At this stage, if they are forced to inhale secondhand smoke, the harmful substances of tobacco are more likely to accumulate in their bodies.

What Is Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking, refers to the smoke exhaled by smokers after smoking and the smoke released after burning cigarettes are inhaled into the lungs by non-smokers.

Studies have shown that secondhand smoke contains tar, nicotine, suspended particles, PM 2.5, more than 4000 toxic chemicals, and 10 carcinogens.


What Are the Health Effects and Risks of Secondhand Smoke to Children?

1. Nicotine and Lung Cancer

Nicotine in secondsmoke not only damages nerve centers and makes adults addicted, but also constricts children's blood vessels, which can lead to continuous hypoxia, brain damage and poor memory of children.

Studies have shown that children who smoke passively for a long time have significantly poorer intellectual development than children who grow up in a non-smoke environment

Moreover, secondhand smoke contains a variety of carcinogens including formaldehyde, nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines and so on, increasing the prevalence of lung cancer in children.

2. Toxic Residue

A study proves that toxic substances emitted during smoking will remain on the surface of smokers' clothes, indoor walls, furniture, carpets and other objects in the room

These toxic substances can attach to children's bodies, which can have a great impact on their health, and even harm the respiratory system of adults exposed to such conditions for a long time.

Furthermore, these residual pollutants last longer than the damage caused by inhalation of secondhand smoke, and even do not disappear for several months.

3. PM 2.5

After adults smoke at home, the PM2.5 produced by cigarette burning will spread to the whole room. Just as we can't avoid inhaling oxygen in the air, children can't avoid inhaling secondhand smoke and the PM2.5 carried by them.

Compared with the coarser atmospheric particles, PM2.5 has small particle size, large coverage area and strong activity. It is easy to carry toxic and harmful substances such as heavy metals and microorganisms. Therefore, it will have a greater impact on children's health and induces respiratory tract infection, bronchitis and many chronic respiratory and lung diseases.

4. Respiratory Tract Infection

Children's bronchi are more straight than adults, which makes it easier for harmful substances in secondhand smoke to accumulate in the alveoli through their respiratory tract.

5. Asthma

Children exposed to passive smoking were 2.51 times more likely to develop asthma than children without passive smoking. In passive smoking, the toxicity emitted by smoke is often higher than that inhaled by smokers themselves, which makes children's lung function decline and children's responsiveness to drugs weaken. 

Moreover, smoking or passive smoking during pregnancy will increase the incidence rate of neonatal asthma.

6. Secretory Otitis Media

Harmful substances in tobacco can directly damage the mucosa and destroy the clearing mechanism of the middle ear, thus increasing the probability of injury, infection and allergic inflammation of eustachian tube mucosa.

The mucous membrane and cilia of eustachian tube in children are more easily damaged than that in adults.

7. Inattention

Some studies have shown that passive smoking can cause children's blood lead level to rise, leading to lead poisoning, which is one of the causes of children's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its main manifestation is inattention.

8. Hypertension

Secondhand smoke can change the structure and function of arteries in children, resulting in an increase in blood pressure. Even a short period of passive smoking can lead to elevated blood pressure in children.

9. Decayed Teeth

Secondhand smoke can produce a large number of nicotine derivatives on the surface of children's deciduous teeth, and reduce the level of vitamins in children's body and children's immunity.

It will also dry the children's mouth, so that saliva cannot neutralize the lactic acid produced by sweets, leading to the formation of tooth decay.

In addition, secondhand smoke can affect children's oral flora and the mineralization process of teeth, thus aggravating tooth decay.

10. Height

Studies have shown that both active and passive smoking during pregnancy can significantly reduce the newborn size. In addition, smoke may affect children's appetite and further affect their growth and development.


1. Create a Non-smoke Environment

Parents should reduce the frequency of smoking or quit smoking directly to create a safety environment for children.

A powerful air purifier (if you have) is necessary for parents who smoke at home.

2. Healthy Lifestyle

Children can eat more vegetables and fruits rich in Vitamin C, which has antioxidant function and can reduce the harm of secondhand smoke to a certain extent.

3. Regularly Housework

We cannot ignore the harm of thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke refers to the cigarette odor and harmful particles left on smokers' hair, clothes and furniture, which will cause various discomfort when inhaled by children. It is necessary to do housework regularly to reduce the possibility of children inhaling thirdhand smoke. 

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