Press release

Children call for smokefree homes

New national campaign highlights the hidden dangers of secondhand smoke.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new hard-hitting campaign, highlighting the shocking truth behind secondhand smoke will hit our TV screens tonight, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced today.

New TV and radio adverts will show that smoking by a window or the backdoor is not enough to protect children from secondhand smoke.  Over 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible. This contains harmful cancer causing toxins and poisons that are unknowingly damaging children across the country every day.

Millions of children in the UK are exposed to secondhand smoke that puts them at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death.  It results in over 300,000 GP visits, 9,500 hospital visits in theUKeach year and costs the NHS more than a staggering £23.6 million every year. 

The only way to completely protect people from secondhand smoke is to make homes and cars entirely smokefree. As the campaign launches, a new survey reveals that children want smokefree lives.  The survey found:

  • 98 per cent of children wish their parents would stop smoking;
  • 82 per cent of children wish their parents wouldn’t smoke in front of them at home;
  •  78 per cent of the children wished their parents wouldn’t smoke in front of them in the car;
  • 41 per cent of children said cigarette smoke made them feel ill; and
  • 42 per cent of children said cigarette smoke made them cough.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said

“We all know smoking kills but not enough people realise the serious effect that secondhand smoke can have on the health of others, particularly children.

“This campaign will raise awareness of this danger and encourage people to take action to protect others from secondhand smoke.

“This is just one part of our wider strategy on tobacco.  We need to do more.  That is why next week we will end tobacco displays in large shops.  We will also be consulting on plain packaging this spring.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“Secondhand smoke can cause a range of serious health problems for children and adults.  Smoking damages our lungs, causes cancers and is now the biggest risk for cot death.  Parents who smoke need to think about the effect it has on their family.

“Giving up smoking or making sure you have a completely smokefree home and car is the only way to protect your family.

“If people do want to quit there is excellent support and advice available.  Get in touch with your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacist or visit”

Consultant Paediatrician at the **Royal Surrey Hospital Dr**Charles Godden said:

“I see children every week with conditions which are made worse by secondhand smoke. Most parents would be horrified to know that even a short car journey where an adult has been smoking would result in breakdown products of nicotine in their child’s urine.

“This shows exactly why we should all make our homes and cars smokefree and that children need protection from exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Smokers can order a new NHS Smokefree Kit by texting POISONS to 63818 or by visiting for facts, tips and tools to help them on the way to a smokefree future.

Notes to Editors

  1. Secondhand smoke is the smoke breathed in from other people’s cigarettes. 80 per cent of it is invisible, it contains more than 4,500 chemicals, toxins, and irritants, of which over 60 are known carcinogens.
  2. Leaflets and posters are also available for stakeholders to order through our smokefree resource centre.
  3. The cost of treating illness in children caused by secondhand smoke each year in theUKhas been conservatively estimated by the Royal College of Physicians at over £23 million.  This total takes into account primary care visits, asthma treatment and hospital admissions in children attributable to illnesses caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
  4. Research Bods carried out a survey of 1,000 young people (aged between eight - thirteen) across nine regions of England. The survey took place in October 2011 on behalf of the Department of Health.
  5. For help and advice visit the smokefree website and register for the new free Smokefree Kit to help them on their way to a smokefree future.
  6. Evidence about the harms has been compiled by the Royal College of Physicians in the following publications: Passive Smoking and Children (2010). Going smoke-free: the medical case for clean air in the home, at work and in public places: A report on passive smoking by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians (2005).
  7. For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
Published 31 March 2012