How Second Hand Smoke Can Impact Your Child’s Mental Health

It’s not just the smoker who bears the brunt of smoking. Secondhand smoke can affect your child, too! Children are much younger and more vulnerable to secondhand smoke because they inhale a higher air volume per kilogram of body weight than adults do. This scientific fact means that children breathe in far more toxins from cigarette smoke than adults do (Mammino et al. 2003). Why is this important? It is essential to know this information because your child’s brain is still developing-especially the part that controls thinking, learning, emotion, and decision making. Your child is more likely to suffer from secondhand smoke-related illnesses-ones that could affect their mental health, of which you may not be aware! This article explores how secondhand smoking can impact your child’s mental health.


What exactly is secondhand smoke?

As pointed out by the CDC, Secondhand smoke is a composition of the smoke exhaled by smokers and the fumes from burning tobacco. The possible effect of secondhand smoke on your child’s mental health may include increased hyperactivity, restlessness, lack of concentration, insomnia, difficulty forming relationships with peers, and depression. In some cases, it may also cause children to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Second-hand smoking causes depression and Schizophrenia in children

Based on a study done by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), lifelong exposure to secondhand smoke increases your child’s risk of developing mental illness. If your child is affected, they may lack interest in everyday activities, have trouble concentrating, and have unusual thoughts. Secondhand smoking has also been associated with depression because it reduces the amount of oxygen in your child’s blood. The lack of oxygen could affect your child’s mental state and make them more prone to developing depression.

Secondhand smoking impacts your child’s IQ

Professor Kimberly, the developmental psychology expert, conducted a study investigating the effects of secondhand smoke on children’s cognitive skills. The study found that children are more at risk of experiencing cognitive problems when exposed to secondary smoke (Kimberly et al. 2005). These issues include a lower IQ score and a shortened attention span. There is also evidence that children may have problems with memory, language, and motor skills if exposed to secondhand smoking whilst still in the womb or early childhood. These children tend to perform abysmally in cognitive measuring tests compared to those who were not exposed.

Causes increased stress levels in children

Cigarette smoke can also affect your child’s mental health by increasing their stress levels and making it more complicated for them to relax and sleep well (charumathi et al. 2011). Moreover, If your child suffers from mental health issues such as anxiety disorder or depression, their symptoms worsen and make it harder for them to function in daily life. A child’s brain develops until they are about 25 years old. By exposing your child to secondhand smoking, you are seriously affecting their mental health and cognitive abilities almost permanently.

Programs their mind to smoking habit

Secondhand smoke can also impact your child’s mental health by dragging them in the smoking behavior of other family members. If your child sees other people smoking, it may encourage them to experiment with cigarettes. This practice may put your children at risk of developing low self-esteem and self-image around disciplined children. It also increases the potential for them to suffer from confusion, which will increase their likelihood of engaging in sneaky harmful behavior outside of the home.

How can I protect my child?

How can you prevent your child’s mental health from being affected by secondhand smoke? You can reduce the amount of cigarette smoke in their environment by doing the following:

  • making sure that there is a strict ‘no smoking policy in the home
  • buying an air purifier or installing an air filter in your child’s bedroom
  • encouraging other family members not to smoke around your child
  • avoiding smoking when in the car or in public places where children are present, primarily in schools
  • visit your child regularly at school or other places where they spend time away from home to ensure that they are free from cigarette smoke.
  • if you have a partner who smokes, encourage them to quit so that your children’s environment becomes less polluted with secondhand smoke
  • work together as a family and be supportive of each other when you try to quit smoking. it could prove difficult at first, but you’ll feel healthier, and your children will be more motivated to stay away from cigarettes if they see how much better their parents’ lives are without them
  • teach your kids that the habit isn’t good for them; if they do try smoking, it can damage their lungs, reduce their ability to play sports or run
  • using room sprays or other household cleaning products to get rid of cigarette smells in your home.
  • encouraging your spouse or another smoker who is part of the household to stop smoking for your child’s sake
  • They should consider e-cigarettes if they can’t quit smoking altogether. This channel may help them feel like they are still part of the group while avoiding the negative consequences of inhaling cigarette smoke.
  • encourage your child to spend more time outside of the home if they feel like they are overwhelmed by the amount of cigarette smoke inside
  • make sure you regularly support your child through difficult times, letting them know that you are always there for them

One final important point to consider regarding secondhand smoke and its effect on children is that it will undoubtedly influence your child’s behavior. Any time there are disagreements in the home, parents often look towards their children’s behavior as a potential source of trouble. However, in reality, it is not your child but your smoking habit that indirectly impacts the child’s behavior. There is no level of cigarette exposure that is safer for children, especially those who already have mental health issues and behavioral problems, such as ADHD. If you can quit smoking, there will be less tension or stress between you and your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, it is essential to take them to the doctor or a psychologist so that you have an accurate understanding of their needs. You may also want to get help for yourself if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or stress which could be impacting your ability to care for your child positively.


Center for disease control. (2021). Second hand smoke.
Kimberly et al. (2005). Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and cognitive ability among US children.
Mammino et al (2003). Second hand smoke and blood lead levels in children.
Charumathi et al (20110. The association between active, second hand smoking and insufficient sleep.

Last Updated on September 22, 2021