Babies and children are very vulnerable to the effects of ‘second hand’ smoke. Second hand smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the person smoking.


If a child lives in a house where one or more people smoke, it more than doubles the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death.

Second hand smoke can also increase the risk of:

  • wheezing and coughing
  • asthma
  • ear infections and glue ear
  • Sudden Infant Death (cot death)
  • respiratory infections (bronchiolitis)
  • bacterial meningitis

Second hand smoke during pregnancy

Second hand smoke can also harm your baby before they are even born. When you inhale smoke you’re putting chemicals into your body, including tar and carbon monoxide (which is a poisonous gas). These chemicals damage both your body and your unborn baby, and can cause a wide range of health problems.

If you or someone who may pick up your baby smoke

  • wash your hands before handling the baby
  • leave picking up your baby for 25 mins after smoking a cigarette as your breath contains nicotine
  • go outside to smoke and cover your indoor clothes with a coat or jacket

Vaping or e-cigarettes

An estimated 2.9 million adults in Great Britain currently use e-cigarettes and of these, 1.5 million people have completely stopped smoking cigarettes. They carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes and can be particularly effective when combined with extra quitting support. See the NHS Smokefree website for more information on e-cigarettes.

Stop smoking support

For help to stop smoking speak to your health visitor or GP.

Read more on stop smoking support in Hackney and the City and stopping smoking in pregnancy.