Many adults remember a time when smoking was common in public places. Smoking used to be common in restaurants, offices and even airplanes. As the health risks of secondhand smoke became better understood, corporate policy, laws and regulations changed. Fast forward to today, when there are a number of limitations about where smoking can occur. As a result, adult non-smokers can generally avoid inhaling someone else’s smoke.

No Smoking At HomeHowever, one setting in the U.S. where secondhand smoke is still a problem is households with children. A recently published CDC study analyzed data on 8,000 households with a child under 18 years old and at least one smoking parent. The study found that approximately 40% of households did not completely ban smoking indoors.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke concluded that even small amounts of secondhand smoke create a health risk. Children exposed to secondhand smoke can have breathing related problems right away, and increased risk of lung cancer and heart and blood vessel problems as adults.

…there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke

The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, a Report of the Surgeon General, 2006, p. 11

A Massachusetts study of adult smokers with children looked more closely at parents’ barriers to banning smoking at home. Barriers included the inconvenience of going outside to smoke, difficulty of single parents in finding someone to watch a child while they stepped out to smoke, and a perception that it is disrespectful to ask others not to smoke inside. Parents in the Massachusetts study also reported perceived benefits of home smoking bans: it’s good for my child’s health, avoidance of fires and burns, a cleaner and better smelling home, and the tendency of smokers to smoke less.

Both quitting smoking and never allowing smoking indoors are good ways to protect our children from secondhand smoke. Smokers wanting to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit for help. The website recommends setting “smoke free rules” for areas where children play, study, eat, travel, ride, and live.

Author: Jill Powelson