Cigarette smoke contains 4000 harmful chemicals. Tobacco smoke damages the little hair-like structures, called cilia, which remove dust, pollens and other irritants from your lungs. This means that the normal cleaning action of your lungs is damaged and you are more prone to chest infections. Smoking marijuana is also very harmful to the lungs.

Until you quit, you should only smoke outside your home and always protect your kids from second-hand smoke. Children with asthma whose parents smoke have more asthma symptoms than children whose parents don’t smoke. When you come in contact with other people’s cigarette smoke you breathe in second-hand smoke with all of its harmful chemicals (called passive smoking). Infants and children of all ages develop health problems from passive smoking because they are smaller and the dangerous substances in smoke are more harmful to them. They also spend a lot of time with parents and caregivers and if the parent or caregiver smokes they are exposed to it for longer periods of time. Infants and children who breathe in other people’s cigarette smoke can:

  • develop glue ear or middle ear infections
  • suffer more ear, nose, throat or chest infections, croup and wheezing
  • develop asthma
  • develop pneumonia and bronchitis
  • be at risk from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • be at risk from meningococcal disease

Make your home (and car) smokefree by making it a rule that your home is smokefree at all times for everyone. Let other people know, asking them to go outside to smoke. Remove all ashtrays from inside your home, and put up Smokefree home/Whare Auahi Kore stickers on your letterbox or at the entrance to your home (your local public health service has these free stickers). A total ban on smoking in the house is the best way to protect your children, but until you quit, wait until the kids are in bed or smoking less inside doesn’t actually reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.

Giving up smoking isn’t easy, but there are plenty of people who want to help make the process easier for you. If you have managed to quit before – well done – it will be less difficult next time.

For help with quitting, see how to be smokefree here, call your local asthma partner, the National Heart Foundation, the Cancer Society or call the Quitline 0800 778 778.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ would like to acknowledge the following sources of information in preparing these fact sheets:

  • EECA (Energy, Efficiency and Conservation Authority)
  • Health Sponsorship Council
  • Wellington School of Medicine, Housing and Health Research Programme
  • Heath Sponsorship Council’s pamphlet ‘A guide to making your home and car Smokefree’ - view here