Tommy's PregnancyHub

The risks of secondhand smoke

Secondhand (passive) smoke is highly toxic. More than 80% of secondhand smoke is invisible and doesn’t smell.

What are the risks of secondhand smoke?

Secondhand (passive) smoke can affect you and your baby before and after their birth.

Secondhand smoke can increase the risk of:

Babies whose parents smoke are also more likely to be admitted to hospital for infections that can affect their breathing, such bronchitis and pneumonia, during the first year of life.

If you are a smoker, you will also find it harder to quit if someone living with you is also a smoker.

It doesn’t matter how careful others think they are about keeping smoke away from you. If someone smokes in your home, you and your baby still get the harmful poisons. Opening windows and doors or smoking in another room will not make it safe.

How do I know if I’m affected by secondhand smoke?

Your midwife will measure the levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in your body with a CO monitor at your antenatal appointments. This will show if you are being exposed to secondhand smoke, as well as if you smoke yourself.

What can I do about secondhand smoke?

The smoker in your home may not be aware of how their smoking affects you and your baby. It may help to talk to them about quitting smoking for you and your baby’s sake, if not theirs. There is support available, if they need it.

You could also try to:

  • avoid going to places where you know people will be smoking indoors
  • ask drivers not to smoke in the car or take different transport
  • tell visiting smokers to smoke outside with the door closed behind them, make sure nearby windows are also closed
  • keep an umbrella, raincoat and or wellies by the door so there are no excuses for people not to smoke outside even if it's raining
  • have information and stickers from NHS Smokefree around your home
  • call these free helplines for advice on how to keep you and your baby safe from other people's smoke: Quitline on 0800 00 22 00 or Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.

NHS Choices. Stop smoking in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/smoking-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 07/11/2019. Next review due: 07/11/2022)

NHS Smokefree https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/secondhand-smoke

Smoking in Pregnancy: Communication with Women Working Group (2015) Shared key messages

Review dates

Last reviewed: 14 February, 2020
Next review: 14 February, 2023