Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is both smoke coming from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled from a smoking person. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. This includes hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer. Third-hand smoke is toxic residue left over from smoking. It can linger in furniture, walls, and other surfaces long after someone has stopped smoking.

Smoking is an entirely preventable risk to your child’s development. Smoking during pregnancy causes more than 1,000 infant deaths each year. Pregnant smokers have more miscarriages, bleeding and other complications during and after pregnancy than nonsmokers. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco products restrict food and oxygen to babies in the womb, making small and preterm babies more likely among pregnant smokers. Nicotine in tobacco smoke damages fetal brain cells, making learning, attention and behavior problems more likely as children grow.

Secondhand smoke causes health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory and lung infections, ear infections, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In fact, infants are three times more likely to die of SIDS when born into a house with smokers. Chemicals in secondhand smoke appear to affect the brain in ways that affect an infant’s ability to control breathing. Children living with smokers get more bronchitis and pneumonia, and their lungs develop less than children living in smoke-free homes.

You can protect your child from secondhand smoke by:

  • checking that your child’s care provider is tobacco-free.
  • not allowing anyone to smoke in or near your home.
  • not allowing anyone to smoke in your car, even with the windows down.

In California, it’s illegal for adults to smoke in a car with children inside because the air quality is unhealthy. If you’re caught smoking in a car with kids, you could be fined up to $100.

Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the toxic residue of third-hand smoke because they crawl on the floor and frequently put things in their mouths. Change into clean clothes before holding your child if you’ve been smoking, have been around a smoker or have been in a place where smoking is allowed. If a smoker lived in your home, wash your walls and ceilings with detergent and hot water to remove as much nicotine and tar residue as possible. Then repaint the walls with at least two coats of nontoxic paint. Replace items like pillows and curtains if they’ve been contaminated by tobacco smoke. Steam-clean bigger items like couches and rugs to help reduce the exposure to fumes trapped in the fabric. If you have to drive a car in which someone smoked, use window cleaner to wipe smoke residue off windows and hard surfaces, and shampoo the seats and carpet.

Ready to Quit?

You can receive free and confidential counseling and resources to quit for good. Call the California Smokers’ Helpline today to receive free materials, referral to local resources and one-on-one telephone counseling. You may be eligible to receive a free four-week kit of nicotine patches as an enhancement to telephone counseling.

Monday through Friday 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

English: 1-800-NO-BUTTS
Spanish: 1-800-45-NO-FUME
Mandarin and Cantonese: 1-800-838-8917
Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440
Korean: 1-800-556-5564
TDD/TYY: 1-800-933-4TDD
Chewing tobacco users: 1-800-844-CHEW

California Smokers’ Helpline

Protect Your Loved Ones From Secondhand Smoke texts and smartphone app support

E-Cigarette Information