What is it, and why is it so dangerous for children? (for Child Care Providers)
What is it?
Secondhand smoke is the combination of the smoke released from the
burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe, and the smoke exhaled by the
person who is smoking.
Why is it so dangerous?
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. These
chemicals include arsenic, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and
benzene – just to name a few. Overall, there are more than 60
chemicals found in secondhand smoke that are known to cause
cancer. And according to the 2006 Surgeon General’s report, there is
no such thing as a safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Breathing even a small amount of secondhand smoke is harmful to
Why is it particularly dangerous for children?
Because their bodies are still growing and developing, inhaling the
chemicals in secondhand smoke can be especially dangerous for
children. Breathing secondhand smoke slows a child’s lung growth
and greatly increases a child’s likelihood of developing ear infections,
more severe and frequent asthma attacks, allergies, bronchitis and
pneumonia. And infants exposed to secondhand smoke are more
likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Where are children breathing secondhand smoke?
Children are most often exposed to secondhand smoke inside their
own homes and cars. No matter where children are breathing smoke,
it’s always dangerous to their health, and children who live with
parents or others who smoke indoors are constantly being exposed to
dangerous chemicals. According to the Surgeon General’s Report,
almost three million children under the age of six in the United States
breathe secondhand smoke at home at least four days per week.
How can you help?
As a child care provider, you have daily contact with these children and
their parents. By choosing to communicate helpful and practical
information, you can be a spark that creates change and helps parents
take a step toward improving their child’s health.
Where You Come In:
Tips to Help You Make a Difference
The health of a child is the number one
motivating message you can share with parents.
Even when discussing a parent’s smoking
habits, center everything in your conversation
on the child. Make sure parents know that your
concern is for their son or daughter’s health is
your motivation for speaking with them.
Just in case you’re thinking that the subject of
secondhand smoke and children is the last thing
a parent wants to hear from you, take a look at
the following facts:
- Only 18.7% of New Hampshire adults are
- 58% of New Hampshire smokers try to quit
- Smokers who understand just how harmful
secondhand smoke is are likely to take the
steps necessary to protect their children.
- Smokers who successfully develop the habit
of smoking outside have been shown to be
more likely to quit smoking.
Be a conversation starter.
Asking parents questions is often a great way to
approach the subject of secondhand smoke.
When asking questions, be sure to use
language that gets to the heart of the issue
without placing blame.
Make sure your message to parents is caring,
not attacking. Parents love their children more
than anything in the world and would probably
do just about anything to keep them safe and
healthy. Let them know you understand that.
Then focus on the good news that you can help
them create a healthier place for their children.
Realizing just how dangerous secondhand
smoke is to children can also make parents
realize that, through their smoking, they’ve
unwittingly harmed their children. Obviously,
this can be troubling for parents to hear. Always
approach this topic gently and remember to
continually center your conversation on a
shared concern for the wellbeing of the child.
Quitting smoking isn’t an easy thing to do. And
for many parents, neither is stepping outside to
smoke. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that.
Remind parents your not asking them to quit
smoking; you are encouraging them to step
outside the home and car when they smoke.