SecondHand Smoke

Second hand smoke 

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that is exhaled by a smoker as well as the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette. The smoke contains over 4,000 dangerous chemicals and more than 70 of them are known to cause cancer.

There is no safe level of second-hand smoke. Even if you and your family are on a restaurant patio, at the beach or in the park, the exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) outdoors can be as dangerous as it would be in a room indoors.

You may want to have a conversation with your child about smoking. Visit the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health for ways to talk your child about smoking.

How does second-hand smoke (SHS) affect Babies and Children?

Babies and c hildren are especially at risk of the dangers of SHS because their lungs are smaller and they breathe faster. Because babies and children breathe faster, they can breathe in more chemicals than an adult would in the same environment. Also, babies and children don't have the developed immune systems that we do, so it is harder for their bodies to prevent them from getting sick because of second hand smoke.

Babies exposed to SHS:

  • Are at a greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Have weaker lungs than babies who are not exposed to SHS, which increases their risk for many health problems

Children exposed to SHS:

  • Have more lung infections and other illnesses, such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Have more ear infections, colds and throat infections
  • Are more likely to have sore eyes, noses and throats
  • Cough and wheeze more
  • May have trouble in school: SHS may affect how your child learns, reads and does math
  • May be more likely to start smoking themselves if they see a parent or role model smoking

How do I protect my children from SHS?

Make your home and car smoke free

  • Make it a rule to never smoke in your home or car. If you smoke- take it outside
  • Ask family and visitors not to smoke in your home or car
  • In Ontario it is illegal to smoke in a car when children under the age of 16 years are present

Make sure your daycare is smoke-free:

  • Under the Smoke-free Ontario Act, all daycares- including private home daycares- are required to be smoke-free at all times. This applies to the whole premises, including the garage and outdoor areas.

For more information on the effects of second-hand smoke on babies and children visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

For more information on the law visit Smoke-Free Ontario. To review the laws in Ottawa, visit Ottawa Public Health.

For help quitting smoking, contact Smokers' Helpline at 1-877-513-5333 or Ottawa Public Health

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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