Many families have been spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In homes where someone smokes, this also means more exposure to tobacco smoke or e-cigarette "vapor." This can be especially harmful to a child's developing lungs.
How tobacco fills and lingers in a home
Secondhand smoke is the smoke a smoker breathes out and the smoke that comes from the tip of burning cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and every other device that heats or burns tobacco. Secondhand smoke contains many harmful chemicals and toxins.
Leftover smoke, often called “thirdhand smoke" stays in a room long after a tobacco product is used. Thirdhand smoke clings to clothing, furniture, and carpets and is inhaled by children. Babies who are crawling can also have contact with chemicals in thirdhand smoke through their skin.
Tobacco smoke travels through walls and vents in the home. In multi-unit housing buildings, tobacco smoke travels between units and into common areas, such as hallways and stairwells. Opening a window or smoking in a separate room does not protect children from exposure.
Tobacco exposure puts children's health at risk
Tobacco use affects the
whole family. Secondhand and thirdhand smoke causes children to get more ear infections, respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Tobacco exposure also increases risk for
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Smoking and vaping tobacco weakens the body's natural ability to fight infection and increases risk of lung disease and heart conditions. Because of this, tobacco users may also be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications.
Keep a 100% smoke-free and vape-free home
Take steps to protect your children from the harm of tobacco exposure by keeping a 100% smoke-free and vape-free home. Some tips:
Don't allow anyone to smoke or vape inside your home, even when children aren't present.
When a family member smokes outside, they should change clothes and
wash hands thoroughly.
Families who live in multi-unit housing should contact their landlord or building management association about enforcing smoke-free air laws in the building. Smoking should not be allowed in units and common areas. The
American Lung Association provides resources about smoke-free multi-unit housing for both landlords and tenants.
Try to quit
The best way to fully protect your family from tobacco exposure is to quit smoking. It might not be easy, but it is worth it. You can find free resources such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW and
teen.smokefree.gov to help you or your family members quit successfully.
For more information on how to protect your children from tobacco, talk to your child's pediatrician.