The Silent Killer: how does Second Hand Smoke affect Children’s Well being?

Placement student Safa

Greetings young minds! Join us on today’s journey where we explore the microscopic world of cells and uncover the impact that secondhand smoke could inflict on the well-being of future generations. Prepare yourselves to enter the smoky realm, where we hunt the invisible villain and prepare our immune systems to fight against the unseen.  


What is Secondhand Smoke 

Do you ever walk by someone smoking a cigarette or cigar and feel as if you’ve swallowed some of that nasty smoke as well? Maybe you’ve even coughed or covered your nose whilst passing by because the smoke or smell may bother you – this is an example of what secondhand smoke is!  


Secondhand smoke (also known as passive/environmental smoke) is smoke that comes from burning tobacco products, i.e. cigarettes and cigars. 


It is a mixture of two types of smoke: 


  1. Mainstream Smoke: 

This is the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker.   

More than 7,000 chemicals have been identified in secondhand tobacco smoke with 69 of these toxins (chemicals harmful to your body) known to cause cancer. In fact, secondhand smoke harms nearly 50,000 non-smokers each year.  


2. Side stream Smoke: 

This is the smoke released directly from the burning end of a cigarette. It contains more lethal and concentrated toxins than mainstream smoke because it’s not filtered by the smoker’s lungs and travels arounds us, lingering in the air.  


Children and Secondhand Smoke 

Children, being the more fragile members of our society, unfortunately, experience a substantial impact from the consequences of secondhand smoke. Some examples include: 


Immature Immune System:  Everyone has an immune system! It’s our body’s tool to fight off nasty bugs and viruses. Due to their ongoing organ development, children possess less mature immune systems than adults. Consequently, their airways, lungs and bodies are still in the process of developing, resulting in a reduced capacity to fight off infections caused by secondhand smoke.  



Confined/Indoor areas: : Children often spend extended periods indoors, whether for play or to stay warm in winter. However, when someone smokes indoors, secondhand smoke can persist for longer periods, elevating their exposure.  


The Impacts of Secondhand Smoking on Children’s Cellular Health 


Cells are like the building blocks of our bodies – think of them as legos! Each cell contains lots of important components that help our bodies run. 


We will now explore how secondhand smoke can have adverse effects on children’s cellular health. 


DNA Damage: One of the most harmful effects of secondhand smoking is its impact on cellular DNA – the stringy substance that determines who we are! Smoke can damage the DNA sequence in our cells which results in mutations. This damage in a child’s DNA increases the risk of cancers in children. 

Negative effects on Lung Development: 

Exposure of secondhand smoke can affect children’s lung development, leading to hindered lung function and a higher risk of respiratory diseases i.e. bronchitis and asthma. 


Neurological Impact: Recent studies from the NIH(National Institute of Health) have found a potential correlation between secondhand smoke exposure and negative effects on a child’s brain development, including how we think and behave. This can affect a child’s learning abilities and how they interact with the world around them. 


Preventing Secondhand Smoke Exposure: 

  1. Educate family members and caregivers about the risks of secondhand smoke. 
  2. Encourage family members/friends to quit smoking or smoke in an isolated area if they are unable to quit. 
  3. Ensure homes are well ventilated with windows open to ensure there is a reduced concentration of smoke particles in an area and to smoke outdoors. 


It is essential for all members of society to do what they can to protect children from secondhand smoke exposure. By introducing smoke-free areas and advise parents on how to quit smoking ,we can ensure that children are given the opportunity to develop healthy immune systems and reduce the risk of future sicknesses.