The Effects Of Smoking On Children And Pets

Second-hand smoke (also called passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke) is divided into two types:

  • Mainstream smoke (exhaled from the lungs of the smoker)
  • Sidestream smoke (given off by a burning tobacco product).

Both forms expose bystanders to the harmful effects of smoking. Second-hand smoke can pass chemicals such as nicotine, continine and carbon monoxide into the bodies of exposed non-smokers. Learn how harmful the cumulative effects of smoking on those who live and work near a smoker can be.

Smoking with Children Nearby

Along with countless other institutions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Surgeon General, and the U.S. National Toxicology program have identified second-hand smoke as a known carcinogen. These fumes also increase the risk of airway irritation and cardiovascular disease. Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke have an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Smoking with children nearby can increase rates of ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. Smoking with children inside your home can even slow the growth of the children’s lungs. Even before birth, children can be harmed by second-hand smoke. If pregnant women inhale environmental smoke, this may lead to low birth weights.

No safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke exists, especially in the case of children, whose bodies are small and still developing.

Smoking and Pets

Smoking and pets can also be a dangerous combination. Pets are vulnerable due to their small body mass and fast breathing rates–just like children. Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause high rates of nasal cancer in dogs (Reif, Bruns & Lower, 1998). Environmental tobacco smoke can also cause high rates of lymphoma and oral cancer in cats (Bertone, Snyder & Moore, 2002), presumably because felines ingest settled carcinogens and other toxins as they groom themselves.

The Effects of Smoking Inside the Home and Car

The safest way to protect the most vulnerable members of your household–including your children and pets–is to quit smoking right away. If you’re not able to quit just yet, however, make every effort to smoke outside. Even opening the windows of your home or car won’t protect your loved ones from second-hand smoke.

If you have been smoking and pets or children are exposed to affected carpet, fabric or surfaces, you’re still putting them at risk. If you have young children, prevent caretakers from smoking inside and discourage guests from doing the same.


American Cancer Society. (2010). What is secondhand smoke? Retrieved October 13, 2010, from

Bertone, E. R., Snyder, L. A. & Moore, A. S. (2002). Environmental tobacco smoke and malignant lymphoma in cats. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from

Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Smoke-free homes and cars program. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2010). Secondhand smoke: Questions and answers. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from

Reif, J. S., Bruns, C. & Lower, K. S. (1998). Cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in pet dogs. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from