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Children's Health Protection

Where There's Secondhand Smoke, There's Fire

Most smokers know that smoking is bad for their health. However, many smokers and nonsmokers don’t know that smoke can also hurt those around them. Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke exhaled and smoke from the burning end (or burning tip) of a cigarette. Infants and young children, especially those with asthma, are the most at risk from secondhand smoke.

So, there you have it. Where there’s secondhand smoke, there’s fire. Learn more and help your family and friends avoid the heat!

  • EPA says that exposure to secondhand smoke has been linked to lung cancer.
  • Infants and young children whose parents smoke can have trouble breathing and can get respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • EPA says that secondhand smoke can cause new cases of asthma in children who have not previously shown symptoms; or for those with asthma, it can trigger asthma attacks and make asthma symptoms more severe.
  • Children and young adults exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have trouble breathing and have symptoms like coughing and wheezing.
  • Secondhand smoke can lead to buildup of fluid in the middle ear. This can lead to ear infections in young children.
  • Secondhand smoke is associated with about 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers each year.
  • The Surgeon General says that breathing secondhand smoke is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  1. Encourage everyone not to smoke in your house. Better yet, ask family members and friends to quit.
  2. Politely let family members, friends, and others know that you don’t want to be around their secondhand smoke.
  3. Make your family car a smoke-free zone.
  4. In restaurants, ask to sit in the nonsmoking section as far from smokers as possible.
  5. Make sure your family’s childcare center is smoke-free and ask child care providers and babysitters not to smoke in the house or car.


Create and act out a series of commercials on secondhand smoke. Perform the commercials for scout troops, youth groups, at school or in other places in your neighborhood.

Develop a handout on the dangers of secondhand smoke. Have your class, troop or a parent help you pass out the brochure to day care centers, schools, churches, and community centers. List secondhand smoke health effects here.

Write and place an article on secondhand smoke in your community or school newsletter. Discuss the problem, the health effects, and possible solutions. Include tips on how smokers can reduce secondhand smoke exposure to others, and why it is a good idea to quit. Start your outline here.

Organize a smoke-free day for your family or community. Jot down possible slogans for the day.


Ask your friends and family who smoke to take EPA’s Smoke-Free Home Pledge by calling toll-free 1–866–SMOKE–FREE or visiting EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/iaq or www.epa.gov/smokefree .

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