Eliminate Your Smoke Exposure

Smoking … Bad …

We’ve heard about the harm from tobacco smoke these days – the number of cancers related to smoking or chewing tobacco, the cost of respiratory illness such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, or emphysema).  We hear about the addictive properties of tobacco smoke, and we see the advertisements for various aids to quit smoking – patches, pills, hypnosis, acupuncture.

Passive Smoking, Like it or Not

What is less often considered is the significant harm done by exposure to secondhand smoke. Also called environmental smoke, or sidestream smoke, we are all exposed to secondhand smoke.  Like it or not.

Indoor Air

Studies conducted by the EPA and others have found that indoor air can be up to 1,00 times more polluted than outdoor air.  Because we spend greater than 90% of our time indoors, this exposure poses a severe risk to our children.

Review of data from experiments done by the tobacco companies (that were not reported by them) reveal that sidestream smoke can be up to 12 times (1,200 percent!!) more toxic than smoke that is inhaled directly from the cigarette (mainstream smoke).

Homes of smokers have particle concentrations in the range of 10-100 ug/m3, and this can be as high as 2,000 ug/m3 in a car with the windows closed!  The EPA considers anything above 80 ug/m3 to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, and any level above 500 to be “hazardous” for ANY person.

Check my previous post, “Stop Breathing: Your Air is Killing You (and what to do about it)” for steps you can take to improve your air quality.

Our Children

It breaks my heart every time I see a child in my clinic that has severe rhinitis and sinusitis, and the whole family smells like an ashtray.  When asked, the parents often deny smoking.  If they do admit to smoking, they insist that they don’t smoke around the children.

The fact is, when you can smell smoke on someone, you are smelling the particulate toxins in their clothing and hair, and you are even smelling the toxins that they have breathed in as the metabolites are being exhaled.  Those kids are saturated in poisons!  The parents expect me to give the kid some medicine that will cure them, and make it OK to keep smoking.  Such a pill doesn’t exist, wish it did.  Bottom line – stop smoking.

The CDC has determined that 38% of our children are exposed to secondhand smoke in the homes.  Children are particularly susceptible to the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke and other environmental pollutants.  “Safe” levels have not been determined for our children.

One of the reasons that children are so susceptible to the hazardous effects of these toxins is that, per weight, they have higher metabolism, and breathe more air, than an adult.  Children breathe, on average, twice as many breaths in a day than we adults do – about 40,000 breaths per day compared to our 20,000 per day.

The Result

Secondhand smoke makes our kids SICK.

A study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, reported that exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to:

  • otitis media – up to 2 million ear infections per year in children due to smoke exposure;
  • asthma exacerbations – over half a million doctor visits for asthma per year linked to smoke exposure;
  • over 400 thousand cases of bronchitis in children under the age of 5 years linked to smoke exposure;  and
  • pneumonia – up to 190 thousand cases of pneumonia per year in children under the age of 5 years!

What about sinusitis?

In a study published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (2000; vol 19:  pg 1071-1074:  http://bit.ly/c34dET ), children who were exposed to secondhand smoke had significantly more sinusitis than those not exposed – 68.8% compared to 1.2% .

Is that significant?

Now I’m just a simple pediatric boogor doctor and not a statistician, but by my calculations that’s more than 50 times greater incidence of sinusitis in children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.  Five THOUSAND percent higher incidence!!

Smoking and Pregnancy

The effects that were outlined in my last post are even greater on the developing fetus.  When a woman smokes during pregnancy her unborn child is exposed to the chemicals in the smoke.  This can be very harmful, and can lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Increased risk of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Increased risk of later mental illness in the child

What To Do?

If you DON’T smoke – excellent !!!

Eliminate Your Child’s Exposure to Smoke:

  • If you don’t smoke or have quit- congratulations!! Rock ON!
  • keep your kids away from homes where people do smoke
  • do not allow others to smoke in your home
  • do not allow anyone to smoke in a car with your children
  • choose a child care provider who does not smoke
  • do not allow workers / handyman types to smoke in your home
  • do not be the “good host” and put out an ashtray – do not allow anyone to smoke in your home!  When relatives or friends give you that nasty look when you ask them not to smoke, remember – it’s THEIR addiction, let them get their fix somewhere else, and don’t let them expose you and your children to poisons!
  • see previous post here, “Stop Breathing: Your Air is Killing You (and what to do about it)” for tips on improving your air quality

You can enlist your child’s help regarding the goal of eliminating secondhand smoke from your lives.

Remember:  there are 100,000 children below the age of 13 years in this country who smoke cigarettes. Really.

Talk to your children about the dangers of smoking, help them avoid becoming smokers.


If YOU Smoke

The first thing I would stress to you is this: if you are pregnant, you. MUST. STOP. SMOKING!!  Now.  Whatever that takes.  Get help.

If you have children and your child has rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, otitis media (ear infections), bronchitis, or ANY respiratory condition, you MUST STOP SMOKING!!

Don’t beat yourself up about your difficulty quitting, failed attempts to quit, “falling off the wagon.”  Most smokers who have successfully stopped smoking have “quit” more than 5 times before they actually stopped smoking for good. Keep at it, you must stop smoking!

Ask your child’s pediatrician for recommendations to help quit smoking, or ask your physician.  Ask for help.

Call the EPA regarding air quality, and to take the Smoke Free Pledge: 800-513-1157.

When my practice included adults, we had pretty good success with acupuncture and hypnosis for those trying to quit smoking.

Next Week, we will focus on HOW TO QUIT.

Finally, if you or your child do ultimately require sinus surgery, keep in mind that exposure to smoke will significantly reduce the success rate of the surgery (Ramadan, Hinerman, OHNS 2002).

There you have it.  Sorry for the rant, but our children deserve better.

Thanks for visiting, and see you here again.  I appreciate your comments and questions.  Keep ‘em coming.  Please, “be excellent to one another.”

Best of health and success to you and your families.

Until next time, remember … you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose (unless you’re a boogor doctor :~D)

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Stay Healthy.

I promise to continue to work hard to help empower you with knowledge: to improve your health and the health of your children. RF


  • www.epa.gov/iaq
  • S. Schick, S. Glantz. Philip Morris toxicological experiments with sidestream smoke: more toxic than mainstream smoke.  Tobacco Control.  Vol. 14: 396-404; 2005.
  • S. Schick, S. Glantz. Concentrations of the carcinogen, NNK, in sidestream cigarette smoke increase after release into indoor air: Results from unpublished tobacco industry research. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.  Vol. 16(8): 1547-1553; 2007.
  • K.S. Kakish, et al. Clinical sinusitis in children attending primary care centers. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Vol. 19: 1071-1074; 2000.
  • More help:  Taylored  smoking cessation for parents of children with asthma.  Not a quick-fix, but more effective:  Journal article in Pediatrics; article in Science Daily; and from American Lung Association.
  • For a much more technical (and excellent) look at the cell and molecular effects of cigarette smoke on respiratory cells, see:
    Yoshida T, Tuder RM. Pathobiology of Cigarette Smoke-Induced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Physiology Reviews 87: 1047-1082; 2007
  • Prenatal exposure to smoking increases later risk of mental illness in the child: http://bit.ly/auXSbk


  1. My mom used to smoke in the house and the car with the windows rolled up and I hated it. It would make me sick to my stomach. Of course, the REAL problem was that I couldn’t say to my mom “mom your smoke is making me sick” and then have her say “sorry” and stop it.

    Then I started smoking at 13 or so even though I distinctly remember being sick as a dog after trying the first puff. lol. peer pressure at it’s worst.

    When I found out I was pregnant (at 30 years old), something in my brain changed and quitting smoking was then the easiest thing I ever did, even though I had tried many times before unsuccessfully.

    My husband wasn’t able to quit though (but only smoked outside and never in the car or around us), but has FINALLY QUIT thanks to the e-cig. I love it. i would hightly recommend it to anyone because it’s been very successful for him. Sure, he’s still taking in nicotine, but much less, and there were no withdrawal symptoms, and he has many weaning options.

    Good topic, this one :)

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi again Lisa,
      Thanks for that insight. I don’t know anyone who has used the e-cig, but really appreciate your comment on your husband’s experience. And – congratulations to him!!! And to you. And to your children! Quitting is hard, hard, hard. But it is THE best thing for your health and for the health of your children.
      Thanks for visiting, and for contributing to our community.


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