Secondhand smoke

About 1 out of every 3 children lives in a home where someone smokes regularly. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, severe asthma, headaches, sore throats, dizziness, nausea, lack of energy, and fussiness. The younger the child, the greater the risk is.

Secondhand smoke is made up of two things:

  • The smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar
  • The smoke exhaled by the smoker

Secondhand smoke is also called passive or involuntary smoking. It contains over 250 harmful chemicals; about 50 of these can cause cancer.

What you can do to protect your child from secondhand smoke

  • If you or someone in your house smokes, stop! Talk to your employer or health care provider; they can refer you to a low-cost program. Visit the Web site
  • If you smoke and plan to breastfeed your baby, stop smoking. Breast milk from women who smoke contains chemicals that are dangerous to babies.
  • Don’t let anyone smoke in your home or your car, especially when children are present.
  • Remove ashtrays from your house. They can encourage people to light up.
  • Store matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • When choosing a baby-sitter or child care worker, be sure he or she does not smoke around your child.
  • When you’re in public with your baby, ask others not to smoke around you and your child.
  • Don't go to restaurants that allow smoking.

For more information, read "How can secondhand smoke harm my child?" from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

April 2008

Most common questions

Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?

Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.

If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).