smoking; cigarettes; passive; babies; SIDS; pregnancy; teenagers; adolescents; quit; quitting; second; hand; smoke; habits; children; tobacco; free; laws;
Smoking is harmful to our health. People who smoke have a higher risk of heart and lung disease, and various cancers. We also now know that second-hand smoke (passive smoking) is harmful. Governments, councils, schools and health services are aware of this and have taken steps to make more public spaces smoke-free.
Parents can protect their children from the harmful effects of passive smoking and guide them away from taking up smoking when they are older. The best way to do this is to be a healthy role model and to quit if you smoke. It's also important to protect children from second-hand smoke and to give them a smoke-free home and car. In South Australia it is illegal to smoke in a car when children are in the car.
You might like to look at 'Can I kick it?' from SA Health, Heart Foundation, Cancer Council SA and Quit SA
Why people smoke cigarettes
People smoke cigarettes to satisfy their craving for nicotine. The longer a person smokes, and the more they smoke, the harder it is to quit. Often people try quitting many times before they succeed.
Some people develop habits that make them feel they need to smoke, such as when talking on the phone, having their morning coffee, an alcoholic drink or when out with friends. The urge to smoke can also be triggered by feelings such as anger, stress, boredom, excitement and anxiety.
Although nicotine addiction keeps people smoking, young people usually start smoking because of the social image they want to present to others. They may think that smoking:
- makes them look tough, cool, sexy, more grown-up and attractive
- can help them make friends or fit in with their peers.
Young people are more likely to start smoking if their friends or family smoke. Most young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke as adults.
Smoking and babies
Pregnancy and smoking
It's recommended that you do not smoke during pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy means there is more chance of having a:
- low birth weight baby. Small babies are often less able to cope with the stress of labour and delivery
- baby born early (premature)
- still birth (born dead).
For more information have a look at 'Smoking during pregnancy'
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Smoking during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby by either parent increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
To give your baby a healthy start in life:
- quit smoking if you or your partner are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
- insist that friends and family do not smoke near your baby
- make your home and car smoke-free.
Second-hand smoke and passive smoking
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that comes off the end of a lit cigarette and the smoke that a smoker breathes out. It's also known as environmental tobacco smoke.
Breathing in this smoke is called passive smoking. Passive smoking is harmful, especially to young children and babies.
There is no safe level of smoking or second-hand smoke. Smoking in another room or by an open window is not enough to prevent children from being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Effects of passive smoking on children and babies
Children with a parent who smokes are more at risk of illnesses. Smoke irritates eyes and airways, and increases the risk of illnesses in children such as:
- coughing and wheezing
- middle ear infections
- more serious asthma attacks.
Other dangers for children
Apart from the dangers of passive smoking there are other risks to children who are around people who smoke.
- Cigarettes and ash are poisonous. Eating even one butt can make a young child sick. Keep cigarettes and ashtrays away from children.
- Cigarettes can seriously burn children.
- Matches and lighters can cause burns and can start house fires and other fires. Keep them away from children.
- Smoking while driving increases the chance of having an accident.
What you can do
Be a healthy role model
Parents are the most powerful role models for their children. Even though you may tell your children not to smoke, they are more likely to copy you than to do what you say. Children with a parent who smokes are twice as likely to take up smoking themselves in adolescence. The best action you can take is to quit smoking. Contact your doctor or Quitline for support.
- Talk with your children about the dangers of smoking, listen to what they say and be clear about your views.
- Support smoking prevention programs and ‘no-smoking' policies in schools or other places.
- Keep ashtrays, cigarette packs, matches and lighters away from children.
Have a smoke-free home and car
- Make your home smoke-free – display no-smoking stickers.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke in the car. It is illegal in South Australia to smoke in a car when children are in the car.
- Ask your family and friends not to smoke, or to smoke outside and dispose of butts carefully. Sometimes they may refuse to do this. Explain your reasons, and ask them to respect your decision.
- If you or others must smoke do it outside well away from children.
What if my child smokes?
Most parents don't want their children to smoke, even if they smoke themselves.
For parents who don't smoke, or who have quit, it can be upsetting to find out their child smokes.
Many young people will experiment with smoking (and other things) to challenge their parents' rules in their need to be independent. This ‘testing out' in adolescence can create pressures within a family. For some young people, being told not to do something can trigger them to do the very thing parents advise against. About 80% of young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke as adults.
It helps to:
- be clear about your reasons for not wanting your child to smoke
- give balanced information from an outside source about the benefits of not smoking
- focus on the short term effects e.g. the smell, losing fitness, the effects on skin, hair and teeth, and the cost
- help your child to find activities where they feel good about themselves and where they can achieve some independence, e.g. sport, music, movies, bike riding or bush walking
- support your child to quit. Recognise how hard it is and that it may take more than one try.
You could suggest that they look at the Teen Health topic 'Smoking - giving up smoking'.
There are a whole range of Federal and State laws relating to smoking in South Australia.
See Tobacco Control in South Australia
- It is illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products to anyone who is under 18 years of age.
- It is illegal for young people under 18 years of age to buy tobacco products including cigarettes, loose tobacco and cigars.
- It is an offence for anyone to give or sell tobacco, cigarettes or cigars to a person under 18 years of age. This also applies to vending machines.
- It is an offence to buy tobacco products on behalf of or for a person under 18 years of age.
- Cigarette advertising is banned in all forms of the media, and most sporting events (including team sponsorship)
- From 1 January 2012 the display of tobacco products is prohibited in retail outlets. Tobacco products must not be visible from anywhere inside or outside a retail outlet.
- The law also requires that Health Warnings appear on the packaging of all tobacco products, and states the size of the warnings and what information they have to include, and cigarettes must not be advertised at places where they are sold.
- Smoking has been banned in most workplaces and public places such as shopping malls, and cinemas. It is increasingly being banned in more places.
- Under South Australia law a motorist can be fined for smoking in a car (stationary or moving) when children under 16 years of age are in the car.
- Cigarette vending machines have also been banned everywhere except hotels and other licensed venues.
New smoke-free law in South Australia
Changes to the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 mean that from 31 May 2012
- Smoking is banned within 10 metres of children's public playground equipment.
- Smoking is banned under covered public transport waiting areas, including bus, tram, train and taxi shelters and other areas used to board or alight from public transport that are covered by a roof.
- Local councils and other incorporated bodies can apply to have an outdoor area or event declared smoke-free.
- The age that a person can be fined for smoking-related offences has been reduced to 15 years.
For more information about the purpose of this law, who will enforce it and what the fines will be, have a look at this information from the Deaprtment of Health, South Australia:
- Smoking is harmful to health.
- Passive smoking is harmful to children and babies.
- It's best not to smoke during pregnancy.
- There is no safe level of smoking or second-hand smoke.
- Children learn from their parents and copy what they see – be a healthy role model. Children are more likely to smoke later in life if their parents smoke.
- Give your children a smoke-free home and car.
- It is now illegal in South Australia to smoke in a car while a child is also in the car.
- If you're ready to quit there is help:
- Call the Quitline 13 7848
- Contact your doctor
- Contact your midwife.
For more information
Women's and Children's Health Network
- Parent Helpline:
tel: 1300 364 100
- Parenting SA
tel: (08) 8303 1660
Parent Easy Guides are free in South Australia
- Quitline: Tel 13 7848 (statewide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Pregnancy Quitline: Tel 1300 889 010
- Alcohol and Drug Information Service: Tel 1300 13 13 40 (statewide 24hrs, 7 days a week)
- Youth Healthline: Tel 1300 13 17 19 (statewide 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)
- Parent Helpline: Tel 1300 364 100 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for advice on child health and parenting
- Child and Family Health Centres: Tel 1300 733 606 9am–4:30pm, Monday to Friday to make an appointment at your local Centre
- Quit South Australia
- Drug and Alcohol Services of South Australia, provides information, and for residents of South Australia a 24 hour information, counselling and referral service.
- Cancer Council South Australia
- OxyGen site for young people about smoking. South Australian Smoking and Health Project, Smarter than Smoking Project (WA) and Quit Victoria.
- ASH (Action on Smoking and Health Australia)
- Parenting SA - for other Parent Easy Guides including: Living with teens, Young people and drugs, Peer Pressure
- Lawstuff - for information about what the law says about smoking and tobacco products
- Legal Services Commission, South Australia
- Government of South Australia – Tobacco Control in South Australia
Parent Easy Guide (PEG) #81 'Smoking'
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.