Why are Smoke-free Environments a Big Deal?

​​​Millions of people—adults and children—are exposed to secondhand smoke​. Sometimes, the smoke that poses a health threat comes from an adjacent housing unit such as another apartment or condominium unit. Smoke travels through walls, ventilation systems, and hallways, which expose non-smokers to the same health threats faced by smokers.

Many towns, states, casinos, medical centers, campuses, and residential buildings are moving towards keeping all of their structures smoke free, in an effort to reduce the amount of people exposed to tobacco smoke. This is especially helpful for children, who have still-developing lungs and are easily harmed by smoke exposure.

Fast Facts:

  • Blood levels of cotinine, the typical marker of tobacco smoke exposure, are higher for children in non-smoking apartments than other non-smoking types of homes. This is most likely due to smoke from neighboring apartment units.
  • Children exposed to tobacco smoke are at risk for asthma and other respiratory illnesses, earaches, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Some populations are more likely to become sick from smoke exposure such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities, or pregnant women. Some of these groups are also more likely to live in public housing buildings and can be easily exposed to smoke.
  • The estimated cost of decontamination of a two-bedroom housing unit can be as much as $15,000.
  • How far can tobacco smoke travel? Tobacco smoke can be measured in high quantities more than 20 feet from an outdoor source.
  • Despite marketing claims, no ventilation system can protect from the death and disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Some organizations are taking smoke-free laws even further: tobacco-free laws are gaining traction. These policies include products like electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) and smokeless tobacco like dip or chew.

Where We Stand:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement, Tobacco Use: A Pediatric Disease, supports clean-air and smoke-free environment ordinances and legislation in communities and states—particularly for environments in which children live, learn, work, and play, such as schools, multi-unit housing, public parks, child care settings, public beaches, sidewalks, restaurants, and sporting arenas. These environments should be smoke free even when children are not present.


Tobacco and Children with Asthma

Staying clear of cigarettes and other tobacco products is one of the most important ways parents can help their children—especially those with asthma—breathe easy.

Up in Smoke: Effects on the Lungs

Tobacco smoke contains nicotine and thousands of other chemicals, many with known health effects. Exposure to tobacco can cause lung problems even before a child’s first breath.

Research shows tobacco and nicotine exposure—both in the womb and after a child is born—can:

  • Interfere with healthy lung development, which begins before birth and continues through about age 15. The effect is long-lasting, with evidence suggesting teens exposed to secondhand smoke perform worse on lung function tests.
  • Cause more frequent sickness, because it is more difficult for a child’s immune system to fight off respiratory infections.
  • Trigger asthma flare-ups and attacks, with wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and other breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the symptoms can be life-threatening.
  • Cause the best available asthma-control medications to not work as well.

Clear the Air Kids Breathe!

More than 40% of children who go to the emergency room for asthma live with smokers.

For children who have asthma, however, the frequency and severity of asthma attacks improves greatly if smoke exposure stops.

Steps that can help children with asthma:

  • Keep your home and car smoke-free. Opening a window doesn’t protect against tobacco smoke. In addition, cigarette smoke and vapor can settle into upholstery, clothing, and carpeting. Children who play on or near contaminated surfaces may develop breathing problems.
  • If your state allows smoking in public areas, seek out restaurants and other places that have their own no-smoking policies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-smoking sections where people smoke nearby don’t protect against secondhand smoke, even if they have filtered ventilation systems.
  • Make sure your child care centers and schools have and enforce tobacco-free policies, with no smoking allowed anywhere in the building at any time. This includes off-campus school events.
  • Teach children to avoid secondhand smoke and the importance of never starting the habit themselves.
  • If you smoke, resolve to quit. It is very difficult to be a smoker and not expose your child, and children of smokers are more likely to start smoking later.
  • Seek help for tobacco dependence if your child has asthma and you struggle to quit smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known and changes brain structure and chemistry. Some people can stop tobacco use without medication, but many cannot. The nicotine patch, nicotine gum, and nicotine lozenge are available over the counter. Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), varenicline (Chantix), nicotine nasal spray, and nicotine oral inhaler are available by prescription.


When you quit smoking, or take other steps to avoid tobacco exposure, your child will not need as much asthma medicine. Quitting will help keep your child out of emergency room and hospital. Both of you will be able to breathe easier!


Tips to Keep a Smoke-free Home & Car

​You may already know that secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone, especially children, but did you know that smoke can stay in a room for a long time after someone smokes there?

After smoke has been in the air, it settles on surfaces in rooms throughout the building. This smoke can be ingested by children, making them sick with ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The smoke can be inhaled by children, or ingested through putting items in their mouths.

It is important to understand that opening a window, sitting in a separate area, or using ventilation, air conditioning, or a fan cannot eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. If you cannot quit smoking, it is important to maintain a smoke-free environment in areas where children live or play.

Tips to Keep a Smoke-free Home:

  • Never smoke inside your home, even when it’s cold outside. Smoking indoors one time is enough to contaminate the rest of the house, even if you’re in a room with the doors closed.
  • Create a comfortable place to smoke outdoors for both yourself and any visitors who smoke.
  • Keeping an umbrella near the door will help encourage you to go outside to smoke even when the weather is bad.
  • Let guests know that your house is smoke free and show them to a child-free area where they can smoke if they need to do so.
  • Consider posting a sign to remind visitors that there is no smoking in your house.

Tips to Keep a Smoke-free Car:

  • Do not smoke, ever, in a car that transports children. Smoking in your car even once can fill the seats and other materials with toxins, even if the windows are open.
  • Remind passengers not to smoke in your car.
  • Try to time your smoking to coincide with times when you know you will be without children at another location- Headed to work, where there is a designated smoking area? Try to hold off on smoking until you get there. You will keep your child healthier, as well as your car!
  • Fill your car’s ashtray with spare change so you aren’t tempted to fill it with ash.
  • Leave a cell phone charger or other device plugged into the car’s adapter outlet so you are not tempted to use it as a lighter.
  • Store your cigarettes in the trunk or in another out-of-reach area while you drive.
  • Consider putting up a sticker or decal on your car that reminds passengers that it is a no smoking vehicle.

Remember that the only way to completely protect your family from the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke is to quit smoking.


The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in someone else’s smoke can be deadly too. Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease to nonsmoking adults in the United States each year. 

Millions of children are breathing in secondhand smoke in their own homes. Secondhand smoke can be especially harmful to your children’s health because their lungs still are developing. If you smoke around your children or they are exposed to secondhand smoke in other places, they may be in more danger than you realize. Children whose parents smoke only outside are still exposed to the chemicals in secondhand smoke. The best way to eliminate this exposure is to quit. 

Read more to learn about the dangers of ­secondhand smoke and how to create a smoke-free environment for your children. 

What is Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is the smoke a smoker breathes out and that comes from the tip of burning cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. It contains about 4,000 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are dangerous; more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Anytime children breathe in secondhand smoke they are exposed to these chemicals. 

The American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted research on the effects of thirdhand smoke and found that it is also harmful. Thirdhand smoke is the smoke left behind—the harmful toxins that remain in places where people have smoked previously. Thirdhand smoke can be found in the walls of a bar, upholstery on the seats of a car, or even a child’s hair after a caregiver smokes near the child. 

Your Developing Baby and Smoke

If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke when you’re pregnant, your baby is exposed to harmful chemicals too. This may lead to many serious health problems, including: 

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth (born not fully developed)
  • Lower birth weight than expected (possibly meaning a less healthy baby)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Learning problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The health risks go up the longer the pregnant woman smokes or is exposed to smoke. Quitting anytime during pregnancy helps—of course, the sooner the better. All pregnant women should stay away from secondhand smoke and ask smokers not to smoke around them. 

Secondhand Smoke and Your Children’s Health

Infants have a higher risk of SIDS if they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children have a higher risk of serious health problems, or problems may become worse. Children who breathe secondhand smoke can have more: 

  • Ear infections
  • Coughs and colds
  • Respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Tooth decay

Children of smokers cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over colds. They miss many more school days too. Secondhand smoke can cause other symptoms including stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, eye irritation, and hoarseness. 

Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke. It may cause more asthma attacks and the attacks may be more severe, requiring trips to the hospital. 

Long-Term Effects of Secondhand Smoke

Children who grow up with parents who smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. Children and teens who smoke are affected by the same health problems that affect adults. Secondhand smoke may cause problems for children later in life including: 

  • Poor lung development (meaning that their lungs never grow to their full potential)
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cataracts (an eye disease)

Secondhand Smoke is Everywhere

Children can be exposed to secondhand smoke in many places. Even if there are no smokers in your home, your children can still be exposed to secondhand smoke. Places include: 

  • In a car or on a bus
  • At child care or school
  • At a babysitter’s house
  • At a friend’s or relative’s house
  • In a restaurant
  • At the mall
  • At sporting events or concerts
  • In parks or playgrounds

Creating a Smoke-Free Environment

The following tips may help keep your children from being exposed to secondhand smoke: 

  • Set the example. If you smoke, quit today! If your children see you smoking, they may want to try it, and they may grow up smoking as well. If there are cigarettes at home, children are more likely to experiment with smoking—the first step in becoming addicted.
  • Remove your children from places where smoking is allowed, even if no one is smoking while you are there. Chemicals from smoke can be found on surfaces in rooms days after the smoking occurred.
  • Make your home smoke free. Until you can quit, don’t smoke inside your home and don’t smoke anywhere near your children, even if you are outside. Don’t put out any ashtrays. Remember, air flows throughout a house, so smoking in even one room allows smoke to go everywhere.
  • Make your car smoke free. Until you can quit, don’t smoke inside your car. Opening windows isn’t enough to clear the air and can actually blow smoke back into the faces of passengers in the back seat.
  • Choose a babysitter who doesn’t smoke. Even if the babysitter smokes outside, your children are exposed. Consider changing babysitters to find a smoke-free environment for your children.
  • Encourage tobacco-free child care and schools. Help your children’s child care or school, including outdoor areas and teachers’ lounges, become tobacco free. Get your children involved in the effort to make schools tobacco free!

An Important Choice

If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your children is to stop smoking. Quitting is the best way to prevent your children from being exposed to secondhand smoke. 

It may be hard to quit. Talk with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician if you need help. There are over-the-counter and prescription medicines that may help you quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to be connected to your state quitline- they can refer you to local resources and help you quit.

Parents need to make every effort to keep their children away from smokers and secondhand smoke. Parents who smoke should quit for their health and the health of their children. 


Stop Smoking’s Family Ties: What to Do When a Child’s Sibling Smokes


Parents are usually thrilled when their children learn to share with each other—whether its toys when they’re younger or the family car when they’re teens. One thing siblings shouldn’t share is life-threatening habit like smoking or tobacco use.

A study published in Pediatrics showed teens in particular may be more likely to begin smoking if they have an older sibling or a sibling of the same gender that smokes. Teens’ behaviors are shaped by the actions of people important to them. Regardless of normal sibling bickering growing up, a child’s brother or sister also has an important influence on his or her decisions.

If your teen has siblings or other family members who smoke, take steps to help protect him or her from an addiction to nicotine in tobacco:

  • Look in the mirror. As a parent, your smoking behavior has an enormous influence on your teen’s behavior. It may not feel like it every day, but your teen looks up to you as a role model, and one of the best ways to prevent your teen from smoking is to model smoke-free behavior yourself. If you smoke, quit. There are free resources including your state’s quitline to help.
  • Discuss smoking with your teen. Teens value the opinions of their parents. Talk to your child about smoking-related issues in a constructive and respectful manner so both of you can express your feelings and opinions freely. This also opens the door to a relationship where your teen sees you as a person to talk to about difficult issues.
  • Identify your teen’s talents. Smoking is more common among teens with lower grade-point averages and with lower self-esteem. Be very positive about their child’s talents and goals—whether it be basketball, social studies, or tuba— so that he or she has a strong sense of identity outside of potentially unhealthy habits.
  • Tell your children about the side effects of smoking. Explain that smoking hurts athletic ability, causes early wrinkles, stinky breath, stained teeth, and costs a lot of money. Not to mention that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who smoke die at least a dozen years sooner than nonsmokers on average. Teens concerned about the environment might also be interested to know that more than a billion and a half pounds of cigarette butts end up as toxic trash each year!
  • Encourage the sibling to quit. Talk to your teen’s sibling about his or her role in influencing smoking habits in their sibling(s). Empower your son or daughter to be a positive role model for his or her siblings by quitting smoking. Ask their pediatrician for help to encourage and provide resources for him or her to quit.
  • If your other child does start to smoke, encourage him or her to quit. Nicotine addiction takes hold quickly—within days or weeks after starting to smoke. It isn’t easy, but every attempt should be considered a success.
  • Think beyond cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, hookah, e-cigarettes, and cloves are increasingly popular among teens. All are addictive and can cause health problems.

Parents have the power:

Bottom Line—Kids who have a sibling who smoke are more likely to smoke. However, you can prevent smoking in your child by modeling smoke-free behavior, having open and honest discussions, and supporting or encouraging your other child to quit.


Smoking Hurts Everyone

Many people think that the only people harmed by tobacco use are smokers who have smoked for a long time. The fact is that tobacco use can be harmful to everyone. This includes unborn babies and people who don’t smoke. 

If you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, or use smokeless tobacco like chew and snuff, quit! It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is quit.  

Smoking Harms Infants and Children

When parents expose their children to smoke, or let others do so, they are putting their children’s health in danger and sending a message that smoking is OK.  

Secondhand smoke is the smoke a smoker breathes out. It’s also the smoke that comes from the tip of lit cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. It contains about 4,000 different chemicals, many of which cause cancer. Because of exposure to secondhand smoke, about 3,400 nonsmokers die from lung cancer every year and 22,000 to 69,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease every year. 

Breathing in smoke can cause:

  • Asthma
  • Respiratory infections (like bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • Lung problems
  • Ear infections
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (for babies younger than 1 year)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that families keep smoke-free homes and vehicles at all times. This is the only way to fully prevent exposure to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke.

Smoking Harms Unborn Babies

Smoking during pregnancy or exposing pregnant women to smoke can lead to many serious health problems for an unborn baby, such as:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth (born not fully developed)
  • Lower birth weight than expected (possibly meaning a less healthy baby)
  • SIDS
  • Learning problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Smoking Harms Teens

90% of smokers start before age 18. About one-third of them will die of a smoking-related disease. Other teen smokers may experience the same health problems as adult smokers, including:  

  • Addiction to nicotine
  • Long-term cough
  • Faster heart rate
  • Lung problems
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Less stamina and endurance
  • Higher risk of lung cancer and other cancers
  • More respiratory infections
  • Smoking also gives you bad breath, yellow teeth, and yellow fingernails; makes your hair and clothes smell bad; and wrinkles your skin.  

For these reasons, the AAP recommends that the legal age to purchase tobacco products be raised to 21. By the time a person reaches age 21, it is unlikely that they will begin smoking. Communities who have raised the tobacco purchase age have seen decreases in teen smoking rates.

Smoking Harms Adults

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States.

Think about the following facts: 

  • Every year in the United States about 438,000 people die from diseases related to smoking.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, smoking kills more people than alcohol, car crashes, suicide, AIDS, murder, and drugs combined.
  • Smoking causes 87% of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading type of cancer in men and women.
  • In addition to cancer, smoking also causes heart disease, stroke, chronic lung problems, and many other diseases.

It’s Time to Quit!

Thousands of Americans have found a way to stop smoking. You can too. People who quit smoking live longer, healthier lives. They look and feel better. They save money and are great role models for others. Most importantly, they can help improve the health of their children and other family members. 


Smoke-free Housing

​​Many agencies and buildings are moving towards keeping all of their structures smoke free, in an effort to reduce the amount of people exposed to tobacco smoke. This will be especially helpful for children, who have still-developing lungs and are easily harmed by smoke exposure. 

Fasts About Smoke-free Housing

  • Blood levels of cotinine, the typical marker of tobacco smoke exposure, are higher for children in non-smoking apartments than other non-smoking types of homes. This is most likely due to smoke from neighboring apartment units.
  • Despite residential buildings that allow smoking being a fire hazard, health danger, and more expensive to insure, only about 4% of Public Housing Authorities in the US have voluntarily made its buildings smoke-free.
  • Children exposed to tobacco smoke are at risk for asthma and other respiratory illnesses, earaches, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Some populations are more likely to become sick from smoke exposure such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities, or pregnant women. Some of these groups are also more likely to live in public housing buildings and can be easily exposed to smoke.
  • The estimated cost of decontamination of a two-bedroom housing unit can be as much as $15,000.
  • In July 2009, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released a memo encouraging Public Housing Authorities to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units.
  • How far can tobacco smoke travel? Tobacco smoke can be measured in high quantities more than 20 feet from an outdoor source.
  • According to a study published in a 2009 edition of Tobacco Control, 89% of low-income apartments with no smokers had detectable air nicotine concentrations.

How to Quit: When the Smoker is You

​​It can be very hard to quit using tobacco products. Knowing that it will help improve the health of your children may help give you more motivation to quit and stay free from tobacco. There are many options out there to assist you in your quit efforts.

Note: Though the information below talks mostly about smoking, the information can be helpful for users of other tobacco products as well.

Reasons to Quit

Take your pick! Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Smoking not only harms your health, but it hurts the health of those around you: exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease in healthy nonsmokers. Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and other lung and breathing problems than children from nonsmoking families. 

When you quit smoking, your body will immediately notice the difference. Your blood pressure will return to more normal levels, and your sense of taste and smell will begin to improve. Your risk of diseases will decrease. Your clothes and home will smell better. You will save money. You will have accomplished a major goal that takes a lot of strength and effort to meet.

Whatever your reasons are to quit, write them down. Several times. Put those reasons around in places where you usually keep your tobacco products (next to the door where your cigarettes used to be, on the patio table where you can of dip was, in the pocket of your purse where you kept your lighter). When you reach for your tobacco products without thinking, you’ll instead find your reasons to quit, and this will help you resist the urge.

Cessation Aids

There are pills, lozenges, patches, inhalers, and gum that may help you gradually decrease your tobacco use. Some people prefer to use these items to aid them in gradually becoming independent from tobacco. As several of these aids require a prescription, you may need to speak to your doctor.

Tips, Tricks & Tools

No matter how tough quitting seems, remember that you are not the first to try it. Many other people have quit, and can offer insight and helpful advice to aid your efforts, including:

  • National Cancer Institute
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • American Cancer Society

Do-it-yourself Quit Plans

If you do not want to go to an in-person group, or that is not an option, you can use these online tools to help keep you on the path to quitting:

  • Determined to Quit
  • The EX Quit Smoking Program
  • Quit for Life Program
  • Freedom from Smoking®

Specific Populations

Some groups of people have a more difficult time quitting than others. There are quit resources created especially for these groups.

Group Forums

These communities will enable you to exchange thoughts, ideas, and encouragement with others who are trying to quit:

  • QuitNet
  • Become an EX

Other Resources

  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW — a toll-free number that can be called anytime, from anywhere, to get help with staying quit.
  • State-specific information from the AAP — Information about contacts within each state, including the state’s tobacco control program, and a listing of county health departments which may be able to assist with in person cessation and support groups.
  • SmokefreeTXT — For anyone who would rather get their quit info via text message, SmokefreeTXT sends six weeks of quit texts to the person’s cell phone. While the program was designed for teenagers, it can be helpful to anyone, as messages are sent in a convenient format and the program can be accessed any time.
Become a Quitter - AAP Infographic

How Parents Can Prevent Exposure to Thirdhand Smoke

​​Thirdhand smoke is a danger to children. People with breathing problems, pregnant women, the elderly, and animals are also vulnerable to thirdhand smoke.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children be protected from tobacco smoke and offers the following information and suggestions to prevent exposure to thirdhand smoke.

What is Thirdhand Smoke?

  • The left-over pollution after a cigarette is put out
  • The smoke residue can stick to dust, furniture, carpeting, car seats, hair, or clothes
  • Secondhand smoke particles are released into the air, combine with particles normally in the atmosphere (i.e., nitrous acid or ozone) and forms a new compound called nitrosamines, which are released into the air as cancer-causing chemicals

Facts about Thirdhand Smoke:

  • 43% of smokers (65% of nonsmokers) believe that thirdhand smoke causes harm to children.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • Thirdhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals.
  • Homes and cars where people have smoked can smell like cigarettes for a long time due to the thirdhand smoke left on surfaces.
  • Decontaminating a home or car that was used by a smoker may require expensive professional cleaning as it can stain walls, floors, and the smell can remain in dry wall, insulation, and other building materials.
  • Smoking in different rooms using fans, or smoking in front of an open window does not prevent thirdhand smoke.
  • Babies and children can be harmed because they breathe in toxic chemicals when they crawl on floors, sit in cars, or are held by adults—thirdhand smoke can settle on these surfaces.
  • Pets are also at risk, because the chemicals from smoke stay in their fur or feathers.

How to Protect Against Thirdhand Smoke:

  • Do not allow smoking inside your home or car.
  • Do not allow smoking near you, your children, or your pets.
  • Ask anyone who cares for your child or pet to follow these rules—and tell them why.
  • E-cigarette vapor or aerosol also contains chemicals. Do not let anyone use e-cigarettes in your home, car, or near your child or pet.
  • The only way to completely protect against thirdhand smoke is to quit. The AAP recommends talking to your child’s pediatrician about ways to keep your child healthy.

Hookah: What’s Old Is New—And Unsafe

Fewer teens today smoke cigarettes than twenty years ago, but more are discovering new—and old—ways to use tobacco, including hookah, that are no less harmful to their health. 

What is hookah?

Hookah (also called argilah, nargile, and hitboo) is the traditional name for waterpipes that were first used centuries ago in South Asia and the Middle East. A social and often shared form of tobacco use, hookah smoking has been gaining popularity among teens and young adults in the United States.

How does it work?

Typically, groups of people sit around a hookah to smoke a shredded tobacco mixture known as sisha, which is usually sweetened with fruity or candy flavors. The hookah’s vase-like tower is heated near the top by lighting charcoal or bits of wood. Smoke and vapor from the combusted tobacco bubble through the hookah’s water chamber and into one or more attached hoses from which users inhale before passing it to the next person in the group. 

Smoking hookah is not safe.

Because smoke from the tobacco passes through water, many people mistakenly believe hookahs are safer than cigarettes. However, studies show hookah does not effectively filter out harmful substances from the smoke. Hookah smokers may end up breathing in higher amounts of nicotine, metals, and toxic chemicals. Germs are also spread on the hoses’ shared mouthpieces.

Here are some important facts about hookah:

  • One hookah session is the same as smoking 100 or more cigarettes. Hookah sessions can last half an hour or more, and the amount of smoke typically inhaled during this time is 100-200 times greater than the smoke inhaled from smoking one cigarette. Many of the same toxins that are inhaled in a cigarette are also breathed in through a hookah. Individuals may experience a rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, or even irregular heartbeats. In the long term, it also puts you at increased risk for several types of tobacco-related cancers that strike the lungs, bladder and other organs, as well as respiratory diseases.
  • Poisonous and addictive chemicals are in hookah smoke. Carbon monoxide, arsenic, selenium, mercury, lead, benzene, and other chemicals in hookah smoke can reach dangerous levels during a single session. These chemicals have been shown to be especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.
  • Hookah leads to addiction. Research shows that over 95% of the nicotine is still available when using hookah and is not filtered out by the water chamber. This is more than enough to cause addiction. People who smoke hookah are much more likely to begin smoking cigarettes. One study using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data found that young adult hookah smokers were more than twice as likely to try cigarettes than nonsmokers. Hookah also has been linked to increased alcohol and marijuana use.
  • Sharing more than smoke. Because hookahs come into direct contact with the mouth and are shared by multiple smokers, infectious diseases of the lungs, mouth, lips, and gums can be spread to other people during a session. Contagious diseases ranging from oral herpes to the flu might be passed along, and more dangerous illnesses such as tuberculosis and hepatitis have been linked to Hookah use.

Discuss the dangers of hookah.

According to the CDC, tobacco use remains our country’s leading cause of preventable disease and death. Tobacco use almost always begins during youth and young adulthood. It’s important to consider the health risks associated with hookah and other forms of tobacco smoking and to have a discussion with your family about it.