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Environmental Tobacco Smoke: A Danger to Children

What is Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)?

Environmental Tobacco Smoke, or ETS, is the smoke that is breathed out by a smoker. ETS also includes the smoke that comes from the tip of a burning cigarette. Exposure to ETS happens any time someone breathes in the smoke that comes from a cigarette, pipe, or cigar. ETS contains many dangerous chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer. It is estimated that ETS causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year to people who don’t even smoke.

ETS and children

Children who breathe in ETS are at risk for many serious health problems. When a mother smokes during pregnancy, she has a higher risk of having a premature baby or a baby who is not fully developed. When a mother smokes during her pregnancy or around her newborn, the infant has a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Children who breathe in someone else’s cigarette smoke (especially children under 2 years of age) have a higher risk of getting other serious medical problems or making them worse, including ear infections and hearing problems, upper respiratory infections, respiratory problems (i.e. bronchitis and pneumonia), and asthma. Children of smokers also cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over colds. ETS can actually increase the number and severity of asthma attacks in children, which may require trips to the hospital. Also, exposure to the smoke of as few as 10 cigarettes per day raises a child’s chances of getting asthma even if that child has never had any symptoms. In addition, ETS can cause problems for children later in life including lung cancer, heart disease, and cataracts (eye disease). With all of these dangers, it is easy to understand why children should not be exposed to ETS. Also, smoking around children can pose fire and burn dangers. Children can get burned if they play with lit cigarettes, cigars, or with lighters or matches.

How parents can protect their children from ETS

If you are a smoker – quit! Even if you or others smoke outdoors, smoke residue remains on your clothing. If you hold your child close to you, the smoke residue on your clothes can be inhaled by your child. Quitting is one of the most important things you can do for the health of your children and the best way to prevent your child from being exposed to ETS.  Also, children watch what their parents do. If your child sees you smoking, he or she may want to try smoking and grow up to become a smoker as well. Even if there are no smokers in your home, your children can still be exposed to ETS in other places, including:

  • In the car or on a busy
  • In a restaurant
  • At a friend’s or relative’s house
  • At the mall
  • At the babysitter’s house
  • At sports events or pop music concerts

As a parent, don’t let people smoke in your house or in the car, choose a babysitter who doesn’t allow smoking in the house, and avoid crowded, smoky restaurants when you are with your child; sit in non-smoking sections. Parents need to make every effort to keep their children away from smokers and ETS. Parents who smoke should think about quitting, not just for their own sake, but for the health of their children.


Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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