top of page

Smoking in the presence of Children

Second-hand or passive smoke is not safer, it contains the 1000s of harmful chemicals inhaled by tobacco users. The harms of tobacco include second-hand smoke which contains the same over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco, including more than 60 that can cause cancer. Second-hand smoke is a combination of the smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke from the burning tip of the cigarettes or cigars. A person does not have to smoke to suffer from the adverse effects of tobacco. 


It is very important to protect everyone from tobacco smoke, especially children.

Exposure to second-hand smoke and aerosols is particularly harmful to children because their little organs which are still developing. Children also have a higher breathing frequency, so they inhale more than adults do. Due to exposure to second-hand smoke their lungs might never develop to full potential and they will be at higher risk of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, colds and influenza. Second-hand smoke can also lead to sudden infant death syndrome, trigger asthma, induce new cases of asthma in children and exposure may also contribute to cardiovascular disease when they grow up.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly half of the children in the world are exposed to second-hand smoke in family settings. Globally, 65 000 children die from second-hand smoke each year and 15% of the 8 million tobacco related deaths are a result of second-hand smoke. 


Second-hand smoke should be avoided and it should be known that opening windows does not clear houses of smoke which can linger in a room for up to 5 hours. It can travel between rooms and apartments through vents or cracks in walls. Brief exposure can also be harmful, even 30 minutes exposure can reduce coronary blood flow. A University of Minnesota study found that after about 4 hours in a casino where smoking was allowed, increased levels of cancer-causing substances were detected in the blood of non-smokers. The Cancer Association of South Africa also states that sitting in rooms filled with smoke for 8 hours can be the same as smoking 36 cigarettes.

As adults we should protect and prevent exposure of children from second-hand smoke. It is also important to also highlight that you do not have to smoke a cigarette yourself to get the harmful health effects of smoking. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and given the numerous health effects of second-hand, avoidance is a human right.

The Current Law protects Children, in terms of the TOBACCO PRODUCTS CONTROL ACT 83 OF 1993

1. No-one can smoke in any motor vehicle when a child under the age of 12 years is present in that vehicle.

2. No person may smoke any tobacco product in a private dwelling if that private dwelling is used for any commercial childcare activity, or for schooling or tutoring.

bottom of page