Children & Adolescents Clinic

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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Tobacco Smoke and Asthma

How does tobacco smoke affect children with asthma?

  • Second-hand smoke from tobacco (passive smoking) is harmful to the lungs of children.
  • Children who live in a household with a smoker have more episodes of breathing difficulties, they need to take more medications, and they have more emergency room visits than children who live in smoke-free homes.

Tobacco smoke is irritating to the airways in several ways. Smoke is made up of chemicals and very small pieces of ash that remain in the air long after the cigarette, pipe, or cigar is out. Children breathe in these airborne chemicals and ash, which cause the muscles around the airways to squeeze tight, making it difficult for the child to breathe.

Coughing, wheezing, and a tight feeling in the chest are frequent complaints of children forced to breathe second-hand smoke. The smell of smoke on clothes and furniture and in the car can trigger an acute asthma episode for a child with sensitive airways. Breathing second-hand smoke as a child can affect the lungs throughout life.


What will help me stop smoking?

The American Lung Association gives the following tips:

  1. Set a date for quitting.

  2. Remove cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, and lighters from your home, workplace, and car.

  3. Keep a supply of low-calorie snacks handy.

  4. Spend more time in places that don't allow smoking.

  5. Tell everyone you're going to stop smoking.

  6. Plan what you'll do instead of smoking.

  7. Call a friend if you need help.

  8. Contact the Lung Association for help to stop smoking. The number for the national office is 212/315-8700.

Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems