Southeastern Idaho Public Health

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke that is exhaled from the lungs of the smoker.

Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS); exposure to secondhand smoke is often called involuntary smoking or passive smoking.


Why should parents be concerned about secondhand smoke?

  • Effect on lungs - Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.
  • Ear infections - Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.
  • Asthma - Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks and the episodes are more severe.

Secondhand smoke may also cause thousands of healthy children to develop asthma each year. Infants and very young children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get lung infections, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations each year.

It is also believed that secondhand smoke is a cause of low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and many fire-related injuries.


What can I do to reduce children's health risks from secondhand smoke?

In your home:
  • Choose not to smoke in your home and don't permit others to do so.
  • Choose not to smoke if children are present, especially infants and toddlers. They are particularly susceptible to the effects of passive smoking.
  • Don't allow baby-sitters or others who work in your home to smoke in the house or near your children.
  • Choose not to smoke in your car.

Other places your children spend time:

  • EPA recommends that every organization dealing with children have a smoking policy that effectively protects children from exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Find out about the smoking policies of the day care providers, pre-schools, schools, and other care-givers for your children. Help other parents understand the serious health risks to children from secondhand smoke. Work with parent/teacher associations, your school board and school administrators, community leaders, and other concerned citizens to make your child's environment smoke free.

What are some quitting tips?

  • Pick a day to quit and stick to it.
  • Throw out all your cigarettes.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Chew gum, carrots, or celery.
  • Keep your hands busy.
  • Ask for support from your family, friends, and health care provider.
  • If you can't stop, try to cut back.
  • Contact the SIPH Tobacco Cessation Program Coordinator.

Skin Cancer Prevention Links

Name Date Updated
  National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NCEPI) February 3rd, 2014
  American Lung Association 800-LUNG-USA February 3rd, 2014
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