Secondhand Smoke - Smoke Free Families

Second hand smoke is breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke.

Passive smoking

It comes from the tip of a burning cigarette and also from smoke that is breathed out by a smoker. Wherever people smoke there is second hand smoke in the air, although you might not notice it because it is almost invisible and odourless.

Even if you open a window, second hand smoke will still be present in a room after two and a half hours! Even if you can’t see or smell any smoke, it’s still there. Smoking in a car is even worse because all of the smoke is concentrated into a small space.

People who breathe in second hand smoke are at risk of the same diseases as smokers, including cancer and heart disease, because second hand smoke contains 4,000 toxic chemicals. It is estimated that second hand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year.

Children are particularly affected by second hand smoke because their bodies are still developing, and around half of all British children are growing up in homes where at least one parent is a smoker.

How passive smoking affects infants and children

  • 84,000 children from the North East are exposed to second hand smoke in their own homes
  • 800 under-twos develop chest infections
  • 4,900 middle ear infections for 0-16 years
  • 900 new cases of asthma and wheezing for 0-16 years
  • 24 new cases of bacterial meningitis
  • Children that live in a smoking household are exposed to seven times more smoke then a child who lives in a smoke free home
  • Babies who live in a house with someone who smokes more than doubles the risk of sudden infant death
  • Secondhand smoke increases the risk of asthma by 50% in school age children
  • Secondhand smoke can double the risk of meningitis in children
  • Causes up to 40 sudden infant deaths in the UK a year

Smokefree public places

Virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England are now smokefree. It is against the law to smoke inside public places like pubs, bars, nightclubs, cafés and restaurants, lunch rooms, membership clubs and shopping centres.

Indoor smoking rooms are no longer allowed in the workplace. Public transport and work vehicles used by more than one person are also smokefree.