young girl holding her nose from smoke against yellow background

If you’re embarking on your journey to quit smoking, you’re probably not just doing this for yourself. You’re also quitting smoking for your family and loved ones—because they’re affected by secondhand smoke. Those who live with you, or regularly see you, are the most impacted by secondhand smoke, especially if they’re children or elderly. When it’s time for your relatives and friends to gather, it’s also an important time to see why smoking and family don’t mix.

What is Secondhand Smoke?

When you light up a cigarette, secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is the lingering smoke that remains in enclosed such as homes, cars, or public places.1 This smoke can contain over 7,000 chemicals, including 69 which have been proven to cause cancer.1 Affecting both smokers and nonsmokers alike, secondhand smoke can cause harm even at low levels of exposure.1

The Impact of Secondhand Smoke on The Elderly

Like smoking itself, secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer—especially in adults who have never smoked.2 Since the risk of developing these and other breathing conditions only increases with age, the elderly are particularly affected by secondhand smoke.4

The Impact of Secondhand Smoke on Children

Young children are especially at risk to the effects of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can trigger severe asthma attacks, ear infections, and acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.2 Children who are exposed may wheeze, cough, and have shortness of breath.2 Children exposed to secondhand smoke may experience pneumonia, bronchitis, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, and slowed lung growth.2 Among infants, secondhand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is an unexplained, unexpected death of an infant less than 1 year old.2

How Smoke Can Affect Reproductive Health in Pregnant People

Pregnant individuals are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke, no matter what stage of their pregnancy they’re at. When breathed in, the chemicals in secondhand smoke affect the developing fetus and can cause tissue damage in the developing lungs and brain.3 Secondhand smoke exposure can also result in low birth weight, while infants born to mothers who smoke may be delivered preterm, which is a leading cause of disability among newborns.3

How to Reduce the Effects of Secondhand Smoke Around Your Family

Taking proactive steps to create a smoke-free environment is paramount to hosting family gatherings for relatives and loved ones of all ages. The best way to reduce the risks associated with secondhand smoke is through quitting smoking. Find more articles about quitting smoking and more at the Nicorette® Support Hub.

  1. Secondhand Tobacco Smoke (Environmental Tobacco Smoke). National Cancer Institute. Accessed 3/5/2024.
  2. Health Problems Caused by Secondhand Smoke. Centers for Disease Control. Accessed 3/5/2024.
  3. Smoking During Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control. Accessed 3/5/2024.
  4. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and the frailty syndrome in US older adults. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 3/12/2024.