Smoke-free Environments:

Stopping smoking is one of the best things anyone can do to protect the health of their children through pregnancy and beyond. If the parents or carers of children are not able or willing to stop smoking completely, establishing a smoke free home and car and not smoking in front of children is the next best option.

Breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke (secondhand, passive or involuntary smoking) is known to cause a range of disorders from minor eye and throat irritation to heart disease and lung cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke and exposure increases the risk of cot death, glue ear, asthma and other respiratory disorders, including emphysema later in life.

The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that every year in the UK children’s exposure to secondhand smoke results in:

  • over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection
  • 120,000 cases of middle ear disease
  • at least 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma
  • 200 cases of bacterial meningitis
  • 40 sudden infant deaths – one in five of all Sudden Infant Deaths

Other people who are particularly at risk from the effects of secondhand smoke include pregnant women and people with pre-existing heart or respiratory illnesses. It was estimated that in 2003 secondhand smoke was responsible for approximately 12,200 premature deaths a year in the UK. Most of these occurred in nonsmokers living with a partner or other family member who smoked.

Smoking inside a private vehicle with a child or young person aged under 18 present is illegal in the UK. Find out more information from the British Lung Foundation, here.

Supporting parents and carers to stop smoking

Stopping smoking before conception is the best possible option for parents and carers who may get pregnant.

If a woman finds out that she is pregnant and wants to stop smoking, she is 4 times more likely to successfully quit if she uses the help available from a specialist stop smoking service. To access help to stop smoking, the family should speak to their Midwife or GP.

Medicine to help people stop smoking (also known as Nicotine Replacement Therapy or ‘NRT’) is available from pharmacies and GPs. Most people know these as patches or gum. Using NRT alongside behavioural support from NHS Smokefree is an effective way to stop smoking.

Many people are now choosing to use electronic cigarettes (‘e-cigs’ or ‘vapes’)to help them to stop smoking, and this can be a very effective way to quit. Public Health England have determined that e-cigs carry 95% less of the risk of harm compared to smoking cigarettes, and concluded that people who want to use e-cigs to stop smoking should do so. It is not recommended that anyone who does not smoke start using e-cigs. Remember, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase e-cigs or for anyone over 18 to purchase e-cigs on their behalf. Find out more information about e-cigs here.

Key Messages

For any practitioner working with parents, grandparents and other care-givers who smoke, it’s important to motivate to improve safety through the opportunity to promote the following key messages:

  • The best thing that parents and carers can do for their health and the health of their family is to quit smoking and/or make their homes and cars smoke-free.
  • If you are not ready to quit, do not smoke indoors, leaning out of a window, in doorways or in your car (even with the window open).
  • Do not allow others to smoke in your home or car.
  • If there is a need to smoke, go outside and move well away from doors and windows.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (e.g. an inhalator, nicotine patches, lozenges, sublingual tablet, mouth or nasal spray, or gum) can help people smoke less.
  • Ecigs can be an effective way of stopping smoking but should not be used by young people
  • Children who live with parents or siblings who smoke are up to 3 times more likely to become smokers themselves than children of non-smoking households. Do not smoke in front of your children.


Nicola Theobald – (General and Nursery School Enquiries)

Deborah Brown – (General Enquiries)

Dawn Butler – (General Enquiries)

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