Second hand smoke is dangerous for anyone exposed to it, but children are especially vulnerable as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Research shows that up to five million children across the UK are regularly exposed to second hand smoke in the home. Children exposed to second hand smoke are at risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks, meningitis and ear infections.
- Babies exposed to second-hand smoke are more at risk of sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. They also may suffer from more developmental issues as they grow, for example an increased risk of Attention Deficit Disorder.
- Breathing second-hand smoke increases a child's or an adult's risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%.
- Children breathing in other people's cigarette smoke resulted in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions for children every year.
Top tips: If you're a parent who smokes, it will be hard to explain to your children why they shouldn't start smoking. Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times as likely to start smoking themselves. We recommend:
- October 2015: Raising awareness of the Smoking in Vehicles legislation: On 1st October 2015 it became illegal to smoke in private vehicles with someone under the age of 18 present. People who fail to comply could be issued with a £50 fixed penalty notice. Public Health England (PHE) partnered with the Department of Health to run an awareness raising campaign about the legislation and encourage those who chose to stop smoking to quit with Stoptober, which also started on 1st October. For more information on the new smoking in vehicles regulations, visit the Government website. Visit the CIEH website for guidance on the enforcement of the new legislation.
- Try to lead by example and quit. As well as improving the health of you and your children, your children are less likely to start smoking later in life.
- Find free help to quit at pharmacies and GP surgeries in your area, with the NHS Stop Smoking Services. There are many products available designed to make quitting much easier, including two medications available from your GP. Free quitting support is available by contacting the smoking cessation team on 020 8420 9536. The team is also co-located at Northwick Park Hospital midwifery services on a Friday.
- If a member of your household smokes, at the very least ask them to do so outside with the door shut to minimise the passive smoking risks. Be aware that carbon monoxide lingers on your clothing for at least an hour after smoking, and current guidelines recommend not holding a baby during this time.
- Many people find an e-cigarette helpful in quitting or reducing smoking, and there are no significant passive smoking risks.
For free advice, help and support go to www.nhs.uk/smokefree