Exposure to smoking poses many risks for healthy development.
Second-hand smoke can harm unborn babies. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can move from the mother’s blood into the bloodstream of the growing baby.
- Nicotine raises the fetal heart rate and slows development of the lungs and respiratory tract.
- Carbon monoxide gas can reduce the baby’s oxygen supply, causing a lower birth weight.
In the last third of pregnancy, the fetus starts to get ready to breathe after birth. It’s normal for the chest muscles to move in and out (as if the baby were breathing) while still in the womb. This can stop for long periods of time just a few seconds after the fetus is exposed to second-hand smoke.
Second-hand smoke is also linked to early birth (premature babies) and miscarriage and has many risks for children who are exposed to it regularly.
- a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- more coughing and wheezing than children of non-smoking parents
- more cases of asthma than children of non-smoking parents
- more ear infections than children of non-smoking parents
- less room for the lungs to expand (reduced capacity)
- twice the risk of bronchitis, croup, and pneumonia
- lower test scores in math, reading, and logic
- higher risk of heart disease
- higher risk of smoking themselves.
Health Nexus resources
Information on Second and Third-Hand Smoke – Handout (PDF)
Sacred Tobacco, Sacred Children – Video for Aboriginal parents and caregivers discusses the impact of second-hand smoke on young families.
Find additional resources at the Best Start Resource Centre.