Risks to your child’s lungs

How passive smoking affects your children's lungs

Passive smoking is when you breathe in the tobacco smoke from someone else’s cigarette, cigar or pipe.

Passive smoking before birth happens when the blood of a mother who smokes, which contains chemicals from cigarettes, is shared with the baby in her womb.

Children are more likely to be harmed by passive smoking because their lungs haven’t finished growing. Passive smoking can also slow down their lung growth.

One of the best things you can do for your child’s lungs is to make sure they don’t breathe in tobacco smoke.

Before your child is born

Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious harm to your unborn baby. It can:

  • slow down the development of your child’s lungs
  • increase the risk of prematurity and low birth weight. Children born prematurely or with a low birth weight are more likely to develop a lung condition
  • make your child more vulnerable to the air pollution they breathe in the future

After your child is born

Children and babies who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to:

  • develop asthma or have more severe and frequent asthma attacks
  • develop infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis
  • have ear infections
  • wheeze and cough
  • be at risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

Giving up smoking can be hard. But it really improves your child’s lung health. There’s lots of support and information to help you quit.

Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.