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Secondhand Smoke
What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke has two parts:
  1. Smoke from the end of a burning cigarette that goes into the air.  
  2. Smoke that is breathed out into the air
Smoke that is breathed out into the air is more harmful than both the smoke from the end of the burning cigarette and the smoke that is breathed in by the smoker. To learn about what is in cigarette smoke, read our page on facts and statistics.
How can secondhand smoke affect us?
Being close to secondhand smoke, even for a short time can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, coughing and wheezing. Secondhand smoke can make allergy or asthma symptoms worse.  If you are near secondhand smoke over a long term there is a risk of heart disease and cancer. When breathing in secondhand smoke, it is not as easy for the body to take in and use oxygen.   Depending on how much secondhand smoke is in the air, it can be like smoking 1 to 10 cigarettes a day.
How can secondhand smoke affect the fetus?   
For a pregnant women, what she eats, drinks and breathes passes to the growing fetus through an organ called the placenta.  If she breathes in secondhand smoke, it is passed to the fetus. The carbon monoxide found in secondhand smoke, can raise the heart rate and lower the oxygen the fetus receives.  
Use this information to remind yourself why quitting or reducing smoking is good for you and your family. 
Think about the good things- there are many things you can do to stop secondhand smoke from affecting your family! You can smoke outside instead of in your house or in your car.  This is a big step in reducing secondhand smoke for your family.
Benefits of not smoking in your home and car:
  • Removes the health risks of secondhand smoke.
  • The air will be fresher, cleaner and will smell better.
  • You will be able to breathe easier.
  • The chance of fire in your home will be lower.
  • Your children will be less likely to smoke.
  • Pets will be healthier.
  • The resale value of your home and car may be greater.
  • Your food will taste and smell better.
Secondhand smoke cannot be removed by: 
  • Opening a window
  • Turning on a fan
  • Closing a door
  • Spraying air freshener
  • Smoking in another room
  • Using an air purifier
  • Blowing smoke in a different direction
Tips for reducing secondhand smoke in your home and car:
  • Talk about it. Sit down with everyone living in your home and talk about ways to reduce secondhand smoke.   
  • Make a list of the reasons for your family to reduce smoke in your home and car.
  • Set a date that you are going to reduce smoke in your home and car by.
  • Ask others not to smoke in your home or car. Use the list of reasons your family came up with to tell them why.
  • Set up an area outside for people who smoke. Sit outside or go for a walk with your friends. 
  • Make a sign or put up a sticker or magnet in your home and car that lets people know that you don’t smoke in these places. 
  • Remove all ashtrays, lighters, matches and smoking paraphernalia from inside your home. Clean out your car’s ashtray and remove it or fill it with something else like candies or coins.
  • Wash your hands, brush your teeth or use mouthwash and change your clothes after having a cigarette.
  • Ask caregivers and babysitters not to smoke in your home and car.
  • Thank your friends and family for helping you to reduce or eliminate smoke from your home and car.  
  • CELEBRATE your decision!!! Throw a party, have a special dinner, a movie night or do something you love to celebrate.
Challenges & How to Deal with Them
It may be difficult to reduce or eliminate secondhand smoke from your home and car. It is a good idea to talk about the reasons why and try to plan how to deal with them ahead of time. 
Here are some examples:
1) Guests, partners and relatives want to smoke inside the home.
It can be difficult or uncomfortable to ask people visiting your home to smoke outside. You might want to tell them before they arrive that you have a smoke-free home. Most people are used to smoke-free environments. Give them a comfortable place to smoke outside and thank them for helping out.
2) You have young children you need to keep an eye on.
It can be hard to get outside when you are caring for young children. Try to get an older sibling, partner or neighbour to watch younger children while you are outside smoking. You can also take your children outside with you and smoke away from them. Plan to go outside with your children to do an activity such as going to the park, building a snow fort, rock collecting, or running through a sprinkler.
3) It’s too cold/hot/rainy/snowy.
Plan for weather that makes you feel like staying inside. 
If it is cold:
  • Wear a warm coat. 
  • Wear a hat and scarf. 
  • Make a hot drink like tea or hot chocolate when you get back inside. 
If it is rainy or snowy:   
  • Stand under an overhead shelter.   
  • Use a good, strong umbrella. 
If it is too hot: 
  • Sit in the shade.
  • Put your feet in water. 
  • Wear clothes that help you stay cool. 
Plan for bad weather and don’t let it stop you from following your plan.
4) You feel stressed and find it difficult to get outside to smoke.
Many women who smoke feel that smoking helps with stress and that the more stress they are under, the more they want to smoke. Remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to reduce or quit smoking in your home and car. Motivate yourself by thinking about these reasons and find other ways to relax. For more information, and for some tips on how to deal with stress, read our page on stressors.
5) A family member sees someone else have a cigarette in the car or house.
Sometimes rules are broken. You or someone in your family could slip and smoke inside. If another family member sees, they may get upset or think the smoke-free rules have changed. Try talking openly and honestly about why the slip happened and how you can work together to prevent them from happening in the future. Slips are normal, but when they happen, it is a good idea to remind everyone of your plan.
6) You drive to work every day and it is hard not to smoke in your car because your workplace is smoke-free. 
It can be really difficult to change routines. Many people are used to smoking in the car when they drive and they really enjoy it. It can also be difficult because most workplaces are smoke-free. Instead of smoking in your car, try to leave home a few minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time for a cigarette outside before going into work. Go for a long walk on your lunch to get to a place where you can smoke and to get some exercise.
7) It is not safe to go outside to smoke at night.
Some people may not feel safe going outside at night. If this is a concern, try to reduce smoking at night or set a time in the evening to have your last cigarette before it gets dark. If you have to go outside, try to find a friend or family member who can go outside with you so that you are not alone. Let someone know where you will be when you go out. Smoke in places where other people are around, close to buildings and that have lights.  Carry a cell phone with you and don’t use earphones or other distractions.
Do you have success stories about how you made your home smoke-free? Or want to share how you have managed these challenges? Click here to share your story with other women on our discussion board!
Adapted from Health Canada's resource: Make your home and car smoke-free: A guide to protecting your family from second-hand smoke (2006).