Effects of Secondhand Smoke on Children’s Health (12 Conditions it Causes)

It’s no surprise that children are affected by secondhand smoke.

Since their immune systems are still immature at a young age, kids can be much more susceptible to smoke exposure.

But what are the exact effects of secondhand smoke on children’s health?

That’s what we’re going to uncover in this post.

If you have children (or know someone with kids) that are exposed to secondhand smoke, then you should seriously consider investing in an air purifier.

While the best solution is to prevent kids from having any contact with smoke exposure, the truth is that’s not always possible for some families.

An air purifier is a simple machine that you place inside a room to suck out the smoke particles.

This traps the smoke inside a set of filters rather than being breathed in by children.

To find out more about how air purifiers work and the benefits they can have your a child’s health (and your own), take a look at air purifier for smoking room page.

It goes over how each of the filters works to clean the air and offers a few suggestions as to which products to buy for people who are serious about removing smoke from their home.

It’s well worth a quick look.

12 Effects of Secondhand Smoke on Children’s Health

Did you know that roughly 4 out of 10 children have routine exposure to secondhand smoke at one point or another growing up?

That statistic works out to about 40% and not every child who has been affected lives with an active smoker.

So, what are the effects that secondhand smoke can have on children’s health?

Here are the top 12 conditions that can occur:

Ear Infections

Children with exposure to secondhand smoke are not only at an increased risk to develop ear infections, but they’re also at an increased risk to need drainage tubes in their ears as they age.

The risk goes up by 38% and it’s even higher in homes where parents smoke heavily.

Asthma Attacks

Roughly 40% of the children that show up in emergency rooms for an asthma attack live with smokers.

The reason is due to the huge amount of chemicals in cigarette smoke that can cause irritation and inflammation in the airways.

Respiratory Infections

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that roughly 150,000 to 300,000 annual cases of infections in the lower respiratory tract in children up to 18 months are due to smoke exposure.

Of these cases, 7,500 to 15,000 children end up hospitalized for at least one day.

Diseases of the Respiratory Tract

Children who are exposed early to secondhand smoke can develop diseases of their respiratory tract as they age that can cause long-lasting health problems like COPD, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Babies that get exposure to smoke chemicals in utero suffer tissue damage, and this leads to weakened respiratory systems.

Low Birth Weight

Pregnant women who don’t smoke but have secondhand smoke exposure tend to have babies with a much lower birth rate—around 33 grams less than normal.

It also significantly increases the risk of having a baby with a birth weight below 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces) by as much as 22%.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Studies show that infants who die from sudden infant death syndrome have a higher amount of nicotine in their lungs, whether or not the mother smokes herself.

Each year in the United States alone, more than 2,000 babies die from SIDS.

Cognitive Impairments

Secondhand smoke exposure can impair a child’s ability to learn, and it’s proven to be a neurotoxic agent even at very low concentrations.

There are an estimated 21.9 million children at risk for secondhand smoke exposure, and studies show that they have an IQ score that is around 2.87 points lower than children who didn’t have secondhand smoke exposure.

Behavioral Problems

New studies indicate that the effects of secondhand smoke on children’s health can lead to a number of behavioral problems as the child grows up. It has strong links to ADHD, anti-social behavior, conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, and general hyperactivity.

The research concludes that parents who smoked or who were around secondhand smoke had babies that developed issues later on.

Weakened Immune System

As your child develops, the agents in secondhand smoke can cause stunted growth on cells, including their immune system as a whole.

This stunted growth can make children more susceptible to infections and illnesses, especially when they’re very young.

It can make things difficult for the child to fight off common viruses and bacteria.


Children with routine exposure to secondhand smoke wheeze more by as much as 30% to 70%.

Researchers found that the chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause almost constant irritation.

This irritation can cause chronic wheezing, and it can get worse every time your child has exposure to cigarette smoke.

Bronchitis and Pneumonia

Another common problem with exposure to secondhand smoke includes developing bronchitis and pneumonia.

This can come and go, and it can cause children to end up in the hospital because it makes it so difficult for them to breathe.

Roughly 65% of reoccurring bronchitis or pneumonia cases have links to living with one or both parents that smoke.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Research has found that pregnant women who smoke put their children at a 50% to 70% higher chance of being born with cleft lip or palate.

What’s worse, this number goes up even higher with the number of cigarettes the mother smokes each day.

If the mother stops smoking, the chances of their baby having this condition drop dramatically.

Eye Diseases

Exposure to secondhand smoke as a child can cause suffering in the adult years.

69% of cases lead to eye irritation, 33% to headaches, 33% to nasal symptoms, and 33% cases to cough and allergic attacks.


There are dozens of chemicals in secondhand smoke that have links to cancer.

One study showed that it increases the risk of developing lung cancer later in life by over 5%.

It also can cause other types of cancers.

Protect Your Children with an Air Purifier

If someone smokes in your house, or your children are exposed to secondhand smoke in other places, it’s a good idea to invest in an air purifier.

As we mentioned at the top of this post, air purifiers are special devices that can clean the air of harmful smoke particles.

This collects the toxic chemicals in a set of filters instead of ending up in your child’s lungs.

To find out more about how air purifiers work, check out our air purifier for smoking room page.

It explains everything you need to know about how an air purifier can be a benefit in your home and offers a few product suggestions that are the best at combating secondhand smoke.

We hope you enjoyed this post on the effects of secondhand smoke on children’s health.

While the conditions may sound scary to any parent, each one is preventable if you can limit your child’s exposure to tobacco smoke.

So, just take the necessary precautions to do so.