Second hand smoke (SHS)

Second-hand smoke (SHS) is the smoke that is exhaled by a smoker as well as the smoke from the end of a burning cigarette. The smoke contains over 4,000 dangerous chemicals. 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 outdoors can be as dangerous as it would be in a room indoors.

Youth and 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

Talking to youth about smoking

Smoking is bad for our health, parents and teens know that. Even though youth know it's bad they may still be tempted to try it. Most parents don't want their youth to smoke because of the many health problems that it can cause.

Unfortunately, youth may start smoking and become addicted. Many regular smokers have started before the age of 17. When youth start early, they are more likely to continue smoking. What is also worrying is that the tobacco industry targets youth and young adults with flavoured tobacco, new products and advertisements.

As a parent, you can talk to your youth about smoking. Prevent them from starting to smoke or support them when they want to quit.

It is important to know that if you smoke, your teen may be more likely to smoke. One of the best things you can do to protect your teen from second-hand smoke or the temptation to smoke is to not smoke.

Here are some great tips from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to keep your kids or youth smoke-free:

  • If you don't smoke, don't start. If you smoke, quit. Your youth may be more likely to smoke if they see you or another role-model smoke.
  • If you smoke, share your struggles with your youth. Smoking is very addictive and quitting is hard. Youth may not realize just how hard it is.
  • Keep your home and car smoke-free.
  • Make sure your kids and youth have the facts they need. Let them know what the effects of smoking are so they know what can happen if they smoke.
  • Tell them about the immediate health effects of smoking. Smoking affects health right away, not just when you are older- youth may not get that part.
  • Tell them smoking can affect their appearance. Smoking causes yellow teeth, wrinkles, and bad breath.
  • Set the record straight. Not everyone smokes. Many youth think the rates of smoking are higher than they actually are. In Ottawa, the most recent information says that about 9% of students are current smokers.

You or your youth may also have questions about e-cigarettes or water-pipe smoking, both are being used by youth in Ottawa. Visit Ottawa Public Health for more on e-cigarettes and water-pipe smoking. If you would like to learn more about youth smoking numbers in Ottawa visit Youth Facts (PDF).

How to support your youth who wants to quit smoking

If you have a youth that smokes, it is likely that they know it is bad for their health. What you can do to support them is be there when they choose to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is not easy no matter how old you are. Offering support is one of the best things you can do. Nagging and pressuring them to quit is not likely to help and may back-fire.

Tips to support your teen who wants to quit smoking:


  • Keep a smoke free home and car
  • Help your youth avoid situations where others are smoking
  • Plan an activity together where there's no smoking allowed
  • Be available to listen when they are frustrated or discouraged
  • Consider taking them to a doctor or nurse practitioner to explore using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  • Encourage your teen to get support through a quit group or website
  • Acknowledge and congratulate their progress
  • Remember that quitting is hard work


  • Nag or make them feel guilty
  • Put them down, it takes the average smoker more than one quit attempt to give up tobacco for good
  • Offer or purchase them cigarettes or smoke with them

For resources in Ottawa to help youth quit smoking, visit Ottawa Public Health or the Link Ottawa

Another support available to students is Ottawa Public Health's School Health Team which offers quit smoking support for students in high school through workshops, one-on-one counselling and nicotine patches or gum. Contact 613-580-6744 to get in contact with a Public Health Nurse.

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 a Public Health Nurse and 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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