What is Secondhand Smoke?
Tobacco smoke in the air is called secondhand smoke. It comes from the end of a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe, or the smoke exhaled by a smoker. It contains more than 70 cancer-causing chemicals and hundreds of other toxins.
Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone. But it is especially harmful to people with asthma, and particularly children whose lungs are still developing. When a person with asthma breathes in tobacco smoke, the toxins in the smoke settle in the person’s airways and set off an asthma attack. In fact, smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers. In Vermont, one of every five callers to the Quit Line reports having asthma.
To learn more about secondhand smoke, check out The Facts.
A Story about Secondhand Smoke and Asthma
Exposure to secondhand smoke triggered a serious asthma attack for Jamason when he was 16. He spent 4 days in the hospital, gasping for breath. In this video from CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, he talks about asking his friends not to smoke near him. Some are surprised that their smoke can seriously hurt a person with asthma. As for friends who still light up near Jamason, he says, “…we can’t be friends anymore….” In Vermont, youth like Jamason are frequently exposed to cigarette smoke. In fact, 30% of middle school students and 41% of high school students report being in the same room as someone who was smoking in the past seven days.
Make Your World a Smoke-Free Zone
Breathe in, breathe out. Simple, right? If the air around you has secondhand smoke, every breath you take could lead to lung infections, asthma, allergies, even cancer and heart disease. You can reduce the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke and make the air around you, your friends and family, and your pets safer to breathe by creating a Smoke-Free Zone.
Tips for Smokers
Many smokers just like you are already taking steps to keep their secondhand smoke away from others—especially those with asthma. Asking people to keep smoke away from your children still might take a little getting used to. These easy tips will help you get started.
- Make a smoke-free home and car rule. Let everyone who visits know about the rule, especially family members or others who may care for your children.
- Let visitors know why they need to be smoke-free in your home and car. Get educational information about the dangers of secondhand smoke for people with asthma, and give it to other smokers in your life to help them understand how much they’re helping by honoring your Smoke-Free Zone.
- Put a wallet-sized picture of your child or loved one on your cigarette pack. This will remind you why keeping smoke away from them is always worth it.
- Place “Smoke-Free Zone” reminders in your car and in the places around your home where you or others often smoke.
- Team up with another parent who smokes. Together, make a pledge to keep smoke away from your kids and agree to help watch each other’s kids during smoke breaks.
- Ask your children or other people in your life to encourage and remind you to keep smoke away from them.
- Cut down, or consider quitting smoking by calling 802Quits at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or by checking out the Quit in Person section on this site.
Tips for Non-Smokers
These tips can help you create a smoke-free zone and learn ways to ask smokers to keep their smoke far away from you and your family.
- Let family, friends and people you work with know that you do care if they smoke around you and your children—especially if someone in your family has asthma. It isn’t always easy, but it’s important. Your health and your children’s health are at stake.
- Let visitors know why they need to be smoke-free in your home and car. Get educational information about the dangers of secondhand smoke for people with asthma and give it to smokers in your life to help them understand how much they’re helping by honoring your Smoke-Free Zone.
- Make sure your child’s day-care and after-school programs are smoke-free.
- Put a “Smoke-Free Zone” sticker on the dashboard or window of your car. Most people will get the message without you having to say a word.
- Support smokers who are trying to quit.
Try something like this…
- “My child’s (or my) asthma and allergies are so much better when we’re not around smoke.”
- “We’re worried that if we smoke in front of the kids, they’ll think that it’s OK and do the same thing. You know how kids want to be like grown-ups and their parents.”
- “Did you know that when non-smokers breathe in cigarette smoke it’s like they’re smoking too?”
- “Did you know that secondhand smoke is one of the most common triggers of an asthma attack?”
- “Did you know that children have the greatest risk of suffering from the damaging health effects of secondhand smoke?”