I’ve written about the negative side effects of secondhand smoke on a pregnant woman before, but what about on a newborn baby? Unfortunately, many babies are exposed to secondhand smoke every day because of family members who smoke in or even around the household. I was pondering the topic just yesterday at a family get-together, where a few adults decided to take a cigarette break in the same area where a few kids were playing. Secondhand smoke is extremely dangerous around pregnant women, but I wondered if the same was true for newborn babies. Many studies point to the fact that it is very dangerous. 

One study, in particular, examined the healthcare costs of children that grew up in an environment with secondhand smoke. Incredibly, that included children whose parents or family members smoked outside on a patio or balcony while they were growing up, so parents who think they are preventing the negative side effects are no exception. When children were exposed, the instances of SIDS were increased, and the families were spending thousands more every year on their healthcare. For that reason, continuing to smoke after you’ve had a baby is not only dangerous but also expensive.

Sadly, there will be times when you cannot prevent your child’s exposure without feeling socially awkward. You should feel okay about politely asking the adults in the room to leave, but there will also be times when you don’t even realize your child is exposed, such as when he or she attends a birthday party or social gathering alone. If he or she is still an infant, don’t be afraid to ask the parents who will be providing supervision whether or not anyone in the situation will be smoking. Being an over-concerned parent is not necessarily socially appealing, but keeping your child safe should be your main concern, especially before his or her immune system is strong and thriving at age 5.

Cigarettes are bad for you. We can all agree on that. However, you don’t even have to be actively smoking them to experience their negative effects. Don’t subject young children to secondhand smoke. If you and your partner are smokers, try quitting before you even conceive. That way, the cravings during pregnancy won’t be a burden and then after you deliver your baby there will be no traces of recent smoke that could negatively affect your newborns' health.

Source: Ariane Batscheider et al: Exposure to second-hand smoke and direct healthcare costs in children – results from two German birth cohorts, GINIplus and LISAplus. BMC Health Services Research Volume 12 Issue 344 2012

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