The risks of secondhand smoke

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

No matter how careful someone thinks they are about keeping smoke away from you, you and your baby still get the harmful poisons. Opening windows and doors or smoking in another room will not make it safe.

If a smoker in your household quits smoking, the benefits to you and your baby are huge, similar to when you stop yourself.

Second-hand smoke can mean that your baby will be smaller and sicker.  It increases the risk of your baby dying unexpectedly after birth. Your baby is more likely to be born early and have to stay in hospital after birth. Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during the first year of life. 

The smoker may not be aware of how their smoking affects you and your baby. Encourage them to quit.

If you are worried about the amount of secondhand smoke you may be taking in you can ask your midwife for a Carbon Monoxide (CO) test. This measures the amount of Carbon Monoxide that you have in your body.

7 tips for avoiding secondhand smoke

  1. Persuade smokers in your household to quit.
  2. Don’t go to places where you know people will be smoking indoors.
  3. Ask drivers not to smoke in the car or take different transport.
  4. Tell visiting smokers to smoke outside with the door closed behind them, make sure nearby windows are closed.
  5. 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.
  6. Have information and stickers from the NHS Smokefree quit kit around your home.
  7. Ring 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.

More on the effects of smoking


  1.  NHS Choices [accessed 28/04/2015] Secondhand smoke,
  2. Smoking in Pregnancy: Communication with Women Working Group (2015) Shared key messages
  3. NHS Choices [accessed 28/04/2015] Smoking and pregnancy
Hide details

Last reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.

Was this information useful?

Yes No


  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Jun 2017 - 12:22

    My mum smokes and I'm worried about going to visit her due to this. It's her house and I can't ask her to go outside and smoke. She keeps it to the kitchen and doesn't smoke anywhere else but if I can't ask her to go out side I feel awkward visiting. When I go I'm usually there a couple days as it's so far away. This is my second pregnancy and my rainbow. I don't want to do anything to harm myself or the baby.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Jun 2017 - 12:38

    Hi Cal
    If you feel unable to discuss this with your mum directly (I am sure that she would understand your worry) then it would be a good idea to ensure that the house is well ventilated - with windows open to help fresh air to circulate, especially in the kitchen where your mum smokes. It would also be a good idea to close the door of the room that she is smoking in too, to encourage the smoke to travel out of the window and not into other rooms of the house.
    Please get your midwife to do a carbon monoxide test on your at your next antenatal appointment so that the levels that you are exposed to can be measured. It might encourage your mum to smoke less around you if the results are higher than average.
    Please take good care of yourself!

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Jun 2017 - 14:12

    Thank you for the advice, The door thing is tricky too but I will try and do what I can to open/close doors windows. She doesn't open many.

Add new comment