You know that cigarette smoking is harmful. You understand the relationship between smoking and health as well as the potential health problems—increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease—smoking causes.

You might even be prepared to accept all the chronic health conditions that are associated with smoking. But what about your children? What happens when you smoke in their presence?

Your Child is More Likely to Be a Smoker

Your child might say or do something nasty because they have seen you or another adult doing so. Similarly, children of parents who smoke cigarettes are more likely to end up being smokers; about 60% of youth smokers in Singapore have at least one parent who smokes.[1]

You wouldn't put your child in danger by letting him play with fire or drive a car without a licence. So why risk your child's heath by smoking or allowing your spouse to smoke in his or her presence? Do you know that breathing second-hand smoke and even third-hand smoke, harms your child too?

When you smoke, your child is exposed to secondhand smoke or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). There is no safe level of exposure to ETS. It is best to protect your family from secondhand smoke.

What is ETS?

A lit cigarette produces two types of smoke that a non-smoker breathes in:

  • Mainstream smoke which is inhaled by the smoker through the filter tip of the cigarette, and then exhaled.

  • Sidestream smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette, which goes straight into the air that we breathe.

ETS, also known as second-hand smoke, consists of around 85% sidestream smoke and 15% mainstream smoke. The concentration of chemicals in sidestream smoke is always higher than in mainstream smoke.

Is Second-hand Smoke Harmful? Why?

Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 different chemicals; at least 400 are poisonous and about 70 of them are cancer-causing.[2] Research on ETS has shown that the exposure to second-hand smoke via living with, working with or just being around a smoker can harm your health.

Effects of Second-hand Smoke on Children’s Health

We already know that second-hand smoke is harmful to adults. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States:

  1. "Secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers."[3]

  2. "Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30%."[3]

So what are the effects of all that second-hand smoke breathed in by young children? Babies and children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of ETS. There is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure. Even the slightest exposure can be harmful to your child’s health. When parents or other caregivers like grandparents smoke, children suffer as well through this exposure to tobacco smoke.

Some of the harmful effects your child experiences include:

  • More coughs and colds.

  • A higher chance of eye and nose irritation.

  • Reduced lung growth and function.

  • Increased susceptibility to wheezing and asthma. Continued exposure to ETS can cause asthma attacks to be more severe and frequent.

  • Higher risk of middle ear infections or ‘glue ear’ and partial deafness.

  • Younger children who are especially sensitive to cigarette smoke are more likely to develop lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

  • Children are more likely to miss school and are less likely to do well in studies as a result of falling sick more often.

  • Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  • Meningitis.

  • Becoming smokers when they grow up.

  • Lung cancer when they are adults.

Risks during pregnancy.

For pregnant women, the risks of smoking during pregnancy are even more immediate. Smoking or being exposed to ETS while pregnant makes you more likely to suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth. Often, babies exposed to ETS may be born prematurely, have a lower than normal birth weight or slower growth.

Cigarette smoke contains poisonous chemicals such as carbon monoxide and ammonia, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. When a pregnant woman smokes, these chemicals pass from her bloodstream into the baby’s blood. The most damaging effects of smoking happen from the fourth month to the ninth month of pregnancy, when the baby’s lungs are developing. However, if the mother quits smoking before becoming pregnant, the effects of smoking on the baby are reduced. 

If you were smoking before you realised you were pregnant, focus on what you can do to improve the situation which is to quit smoking for good. There are many dangers associated with passive smoking too. Tobacco smoke is harmful to our health; remember that secondhand smoke—and even exposure to thirdhand smoke—can also cause harmful effects to a healthy baby.

Third-hand Smoke

Most people have heard of second-hand smoke, but even after a cigarette is out, there's still a risk from exposure to third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke refers to residual cigarette particles that remain in the air after a cigarette is put out. These particles linger on a smoker's hair, clothing, household fabrics such as carpets, curtains, rugs and surfaces like floors and windows.

Young children and infants are especially susceptible to these toxins as they crawl on, play on, touch and inhale particles from these contaminated surfaces. This shows that the adverse impact of lighting a cigarette goes a long way.

Protect Your Family from Second-Hand Smoke

To protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, the National Environment Agency is progressively extending the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Regulations to more public places where the public are more likely to be exposed every day to second-hand tobacco smoke.

These include areas in buildings, food retail establishments, transport nodes, public service vehicles, sports and recreational facilities. Here are a few things you can do to protect your loved ones from second-hand smoke.

  1. Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home.

  2. Smoking in the car is also not advised, even with the windows down.

  3. Teach your children to stay away from second-hand smoke.

  4. Quit smoking.

So how can I quit?

There are several quit methods. Learn more about them and select the one you feel would best suit you.

It Seems Difficult. I Don't Know If I Can Do It.

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things for a smoker to do. Skills and strategies to deal with the temptations of lighting up can help you succeed. Here are some quit tips to help you manage your cravings.

  • Have a quit plan.

  • Get the support of your family and friends. If your spouse is a non-smoker, he/she can be a wonderful source of support. Ask him/her to find out how he/she can help you quit for good!

  • Stay away from people, places and situations which might tempt you to smoke, at least for the first few days after quitting.

  • Avoid temptation; throw away all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.

  • Think of the healthy head start you are giving your family when you stay smoke-free.

  • Change your daily routine to break up your habits and patterns.

    • Do things that require you to use your hands, like household chores, handicraft or gardening.
    • Nibble on healthy snacks (like carrot sticks or fruit) and drink plenty of water.
    • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise relieves stress and helps you cope with your pregnancy.
    • Learn relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation to relieve tension and stress.
    • If you miss holding a cigarette in your hand, use some other object instead – like a pencil, paper clip, coin or toothpick.
    • Pregnant women can usually use Nicotine Replacement Therapy products no matter which week of pregnancy you are in, but do speak to your health professional first, to find out if it is right for you.

It may not be easy, but with some help, patience and determination, you can do it. Turn your home into a smoke-free home.

Quitting Is the Best Gift You Can Give.

By quitting, you will make a big difference to your child's health and well-being now and in the future. In addition, you will have more money to spend on them. That's a win-win decision for you and your loved ones.

Click here to find out more about the benefits of leading a smoke-free lifestyle. And start breathing in the fresh air, by going smoke-free today!

Kick start your quit journey by calling QuitLine at 1800 438 2000^ or join the I Quit Programme. Remain smoke free for 28 days and you are 5 times more likely to quit smoking. You can nominate your loved ones as a supporter when you sign up for the programme. Validate your smoke-free status and redeem a HPB eVoucher* worth $50 at the 28th day milestone. Keep going and you'll also receive eVouchers* worth $30 and $20 at the 3rd month and 6th month milestone respectively!

*Terms and conditions apply.

^Kindly note that airtime charges apply for mobile calls to 1800 service lines and calls are free of charge only if made from regular land lines.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.



  1. Findings of the Student Health Survey 2006 conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). Retrieved from

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2021 Feb 2].



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