Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

Smoking: Hard To Stop but Worth It

Scott Spencer, MD, MPH
September 03, 2014 11:19AM

At PANW we want each child to have every opportunity to grow up in a healthy environment. One important part of ensuring a healthy environment is minimizing smoke exposure, so knowing if any family members or caregivers smoke is an important part our visit.   Smoking can impact children's health and can influence their decisions to smoke themselves when they grow up. 


Most family members who smoke know the dangers of second hand smoke for children.  For that reason, they make sure that they don't smoke inside the house, inside the car or around their child.  Recently an Oregon Law ( was passed which makes it illegal to smoke inside the car with a child. 


However, even when the child is not present, smoking inside a car or the house creates third hand smoke.  Third hand smoke smoke can linger for weeks to months on surfaces like a couch, rug, table or wall.  If a child plays in a room with third hand smoke they are still exposed to the dangers of smoke.  Unlike second hand smoke, you cannot usually see third hand smoke. 


Another form of third hand smoke is the smoke that lingers on skin and clothes.  Many providers will recommend parents and caregivers change their outer layer of clothing and wash their hands and face with soap and water prior to holding or playing with a child.  These steps will minimize children's exposure to third hand smoke.


Even with all the above precautions, we know that children of parents who smoke are at higher risk of illnesses.   This is because it is impossible to get rid of all third hand smoke, and that adult smokers are more likely to get sick themselves with colds and viruses.  Children of even the most careful smokers are more likely to have respiratory diseases such as ear infections, sinus infections, colds, pneumonia and asthma. For children already known to have asthma, they have more frequent and severe asthma flairs.


Choosing to smoke as a parent also has a very strong influence on their child’s decision to try cigarettes in the future. Despite the warnings that many parents give their children about the dangers of smoking, children learn from their parents actions as much as from their words. 


Our providers at PANW always encourage parents and caregivers to consider quitting smoking.  However quitting cigarette smoking is very difficult and often requires help and support by friends and family, and often from a medical provider.  On average a smoker will try to quit about 10 times before they actually quit smoking. 


However, getting help will usually increase the chances of quitting successfully.   In most states including Oregon and Washington, there is a free program  (1-800-QUIT- NOW (1-800 784-8669)) which may help smokers find a medical provider (even if you do not have health insurance), get no cost quitting aids such as nicotine patches or gum, and get phone and internet support resources including the option of taking to a live quit coach!  


Even with all this support, it can be difficult to even think about quitting smoking. The first step may be just talking about it.  At PANW, we want to help all of our smoking patients and parents quit and want to support you, no matter where you are on the smoking cessation path. 


Check out these resources on our website for smoking cessation as well!, search smoking under the “Healthy Children” link