Tobacco Education Center

Smoking Outside Causes Harm to Kids

By Tamara McLean, News Digital Media

June 23, 2008

Smoking outside does not stop children being exposed to high levels of dangerous tobacco chemicals, Australian research shows.

A study of homes in Perth found higher levels of nicotine and other tobacco-related particles inside the houses of smokers compared to smoke-free homes, even if the smokers smoked outdoors.

Children in these homes had higher rates of respiratory illnesses like asthma, probably because the smokers were dispersing these particles when returning indoors.

The message, say researchers from Curtin University of Technology, is that parents must quit to make their home truly safe for children.

"If parents would like to provide a smoke-free home environment they have to stop smoking. It\'s as simple as that," said lead researcher Dr Krassi Rumchev.

"Because smoking outside just isn\'t providing the protection that many Australian smokers believe it does."

Australia\'s smoking rates have dropped significantly in the past decade, with only 17 per cent now smoking daily.

However, smoking rates were high in the study, with 42 per cent of 92 houses surveyed home to smokers. In almost all cases of houses with smokers, the smokers smoked outside.

Researchers measured levels of nicotine and respirable particles over 24 hours in the living rooms of all the homes.

Levels were low in homes without smokers and considerably higher in houses where smoking was reported.

Dr Rumchev said it appeared that when smokers returned indoors they were still breathing out smoke which contaminates the air enough to cause damage. Particles were also brought inside attached to their body and clothes.

"The little nicotine particles attach to the hair and body of the smoker and are then dispersed into the air at levels that can really cause problems," she said.

Respiratory illnesses were more prevalent in homes with smokers than smoke-free households, Dr Rumchev said.

Children exposed to higher air nicotine levels were three times more likely to have asthma or wheeze than those not exposed.

Air-conditioning or opening the windows did not adequately reduce environmental tobacco smoke, the research showed.

Dr Rumchev said a large-scale awareness campaign was needed to educate parents on these dangers.

To review the abstract of the article published in Indoor Air, please go to