How The Cigarette Culture Is Affecting Our Children

Updated on December 18, 2018
Farawaytree profile image

Michelle is inspired by topics that may be considered taboo in society, centering around women's issues, culture, environment, and health.

The UK recently banned smoking in cars with children
The UK recently banned smoking in cars with children | Source

License To Kill?

The addiction to cigarettes is a worldwide epidemic. But do parents have the right to expose their children to second-hand smoke?

Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they inhaled secondhand smoke. With all the adult smokers out there who have children, what are the rights of those children when it comes to being around adults who choose to smoke cigarettes.

Choices are fantastic to have, but why do so many people think it is it's okay to choose to smoke around children? Essentially, it's making choices for children without their consent that could cause them serious harm.

The choice to start smoking cigarettes is just that, a choice. A child breathing in that smoke is actually not a choice, it's an unfortunate consequence of their circumstances. It's not like they can run away from their parents. Children, especially young children, want to be with their parents at all times.

"...individuals have made the choice that's it's okay to serve up second hand smoke on a platter to future generations."


It's amazing how many people still smoke cigarettes with their children only inches away. Even members of my own family and extended family do it. Those individuals have made the choice that's it's okay to serve up second-hand smoke on a platter to future generations.

It disturbs me to no end that people who claim to care about children, including their own but make the choice to blow smoke into their children's small, growing lungs.

By no means are non-smokers so perfect as to preach to the masses, but that's not the point. The point is that under no circumstances can anyone argue that second-hand smoke is not dangerous.

Shouldn't you at least ask the parent of a child who you're going to light up next to if it's okay that they smoke? Or at the very least, move yourself far away from children while you smoke?

Is there a smoking etiquette for smoking with children? What do I do when a relative or friend of the family decides it's okay to smoke a cigarette right beside my children? Well, I guess the answer is, to leave. But why do I have to leave? Why do we have to get out of the way?

Ingredients of a Cigarette
Ingredients of a Cigarette | Source

Fight For Your Right To Breathe

Since October of 2015 in the United Kingdom, there has been a ban on adults smoking in their cars with children who are under 18.

This move was trending all over Facebook with thousands of supporters.

Per the British Lung Foundation, 430,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke inside cars each week in Britain.

There are some states in the U.S that have a ban on smoking in cars in place, including California. Yet people still do it.

There is also a ban on smoking in cars with children in parts of Canada and Australia. Smoke exhaled from a cigarette contains about 4,000 chemicals, many of which are already known to cause cancer.

Cigarette smoke can stay in the air for over 2 hours, even with a window open, so the levels of toxins are especially intense in small, enclosed places like a car.

"Cigarette smoke can stay in the air for over 2 hours, even with a window open, so the levels of toxins are especially intense in small, enclosed places like a car."

Many pregnant women smoke, some throughout all of their pregnancies and continue to smoke afterward as their children grew up. It's true that some of these children never show any outward signs of trauma or disability due to the exposure.

This does not mean it's safe, and some damage does not show up in children until the later years. Pregnant women are more at risk for having a child of low birth weight, and the act of smoking restricts the baby's breathing while inside the womb.

Quitting smoking even a few months into pregnancy can significantly improve conditions for the unborn child. Quitting smoking while pregnant and going cold turkey may be stressful for the mother, but it does nothing but benefit the child she is carrying.

I cannot understand how any addiction that causes an unborn baby to struggle for air in any way would be justifiable for pregnant mothers. It's simply not humane. Maybe there should be more resources out there for expectant mothers who want to quit smoking. It's a serious problem.

Once again, this is not to condemn pregnant mothers or parents who smoke, it's merely to pose the question about what rights do unborn children and children have to prevent themselves from being poisoned by the adults around them?

What about those who disagree with abortion, and claim that a fetus is a person? Should the argument not be similar to lathering an unborn child in the womb with cigarette smoke? What is the difference? The difference is that the addiction to cigarettes is so widely accepted and tolerated that even our own children don't seem to rate.

"Three million children are exposed to second hand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk.

We know that many of them feel embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking which is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of secondhand smoke." - Jane Ellison, Public Health Minister, UK

This ban on smoking in cars with children is definitely a step in the right direction, but there's no doubt it will not inhibit addicted smokers, so much a slave to their cigarettes that they refuse to protect their own children.

I think of the smoker's mind, and I think slavery. You are always waiting for that next cigarette, that next chance to escape and have one. Your mind is always on one track, and you spend most of your time trying to get through the responsibilities of life until your next cigarette break.

I've often wondered if some people start smoking simply to have an excuse to take a break, or to get away and enjoy peace and quiet. It's definitely understandable. But when your child comes out with you every time you have a cigarette and stands there wanting your attention while you allow them to breathe in poison, that is simply negligent, in my opinion. That child has not made the choice to smoke. You have.

Below Features Information Directly From The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Secondhand Smoke Causes Lung Cancer

Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults who have never smoked.

  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30%.
  • Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers.
  • Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion.
  • As with active smoking, the longer the duration and the higher the level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.

Secondhand Smoke Causes SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained, unexpected death of an infant in the first year of life. SIDS is the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy infants.6 Secondhand smoke increases the risk for SIDS.

  • Smoking by women during pregnancy increases the risk for SIDS.
  • Infants who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also at greater risk for SIDS.
  • Chemicals in secondhand smoke appear to affect the brain in ways that interfere with its regulation of infants' breathing.
  • Infants who die from SIDS have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs and higher levels of nicotine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) than infants who die from other causes.

Parents can help protect their babies from SIDS by taking the following three actions:

  • Do not smoke when pregnant.
  • Do not smoke in the home or around the baby.
  • Put the baby down to sleep on its back.

Secondhand Smoke Harms Children

Secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems in children.

  • Studies show that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often. Their lungs grow less than children who do not breathe secondhand smoke, and they get more bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Wheezing and coughing are more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in a child. Children with asthma who are around secondhand smoke have more severe and frequent asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can put a child's life in danger.
  • Children whose parents smoke around them get more ear infections. They also have fluid in their ears more often and have more operations to put in ear tubes for drainage.

Parents can help protect their children from secondhand smoke by taking the following actions:

  • Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in your car, even with the window down.
  • Make sure your children’s day care centers and schools are tobacco-free.
  • If your state still allows smoking in public areas, look for restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking. “No-smoking sections” do not protect you and your family from secondhand smoke.

Most of us are aware of the above statistics and facts. But, it doesn't seem to be making an impact on the amount of smoking that goes on around children. Why is that?

I have a theory that the average nicotine addict already knows they are committing a slow suicide, so perhaps their value of life, in general, is dampened by the addiction.

Perhaps smokers just care less about life in general. That's the only conclusion I can come up with. I know smokers, and I know how hard it is to quit. I get that. But if you don't want to even attempt to quit, why is it your children's problem?

Why can't smokers limit themselves to only smoking when children are not around, and if they are around all the time, why can't they get creative and figure out a way to smoke away from them? Why is it the children who have to suffer because an adults addiction?

Check out how adults react in this video when a 9-year-old asks for a lighter to smoke

Addiction And The Apocalypse

With 60s era shows like Mad Men bringing back a reminder that adults used to smoke in hospitals, schools, and at the dinner table, the non-smoking movement has come a relatively long way generally speaking. Though if you've ever watched Mad Men, almost every character is in some way damaged, melancholy, and perpetually depressed.

The drinking and smoking are in almost every scene, but you accept it because you realize that most of these characters really don't give a damn about what's going to happen in the future, and many of them exhibit alarmingly destructive behavior.

It seems almost natural that a depressed, destructive person smokes because usually depressed people don't care much about their future. That's what got me thinking about today's obsession with everything apocalyptic and the link to bad habits.

In today's world, with all of the human and environmental crisis coming up, people, in general, seem to be more willing to believe in the idea that the world is going to end soon. The doomsday followers and end of the world theories are rampant, whether it's on TV, in movies, video games, or on the news.

Some people may indeed have a decreased sense of hope that somehow minimizes their empathy for themselves and others. To drink or smoke yourself to death seems logical, in this world that is doomed to fall apart, and who cares if you take your children down with you, because, hey, the world is going to end soon anyway.

Maybe that's a bit extreme, but I believe it's fair. In the search for a reason as to why people think it's okay to light up a cigarette with their children or other people's children only 10 inches away from them - is still ongoing.


See results

There are a lot of excuses that smokers have when confronted with poisoning the big or small people around them. Smokers will say things like, "Well everything's bad for you these days!", or, "If it wasn't smoking, something else would kill me!" Yes, that may very well be true.

Unfortunately, deciding to inhale something that has been proven a million times over to actually cause cancer and numerous other diseases, as opposed to randomly getting hit by a bus, is not the same.

As long as everyone tolerates their fellow humans slowly killing themselves, and the people around them, it will not end. It's a very expensive habit as well.

I know plenty of smokers who complain about being broke, yet somehow always find the money to buy their packs of cigarettes every week.

Nevertheless, in a world that says the children are the future, and the world that supposedly tries so hard to protect children, it's a shame that their right not to have to breathe in cigarette smoke has only just begun to be acknowledged.

What cigarette ads used to look like
What cigarette ads used to look like | Source

© 2015 Michelle Zunter


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    • Farawaytree profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Zunter 

      2 years ago from California

      I totally understand why many women who choose to continue smoking while pregnant would feel defensive about it. Many pregnant women who are smokers are lucky and their babies turn out just fine. The facts are laid out in the article as to why pregnant women and human beings, in general, should choose to quit smoking for the continued health of themselves and children.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You realize that babies do not breathe in utero..right? Im not advocating smoking while pregnant but lets give educated information.

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      pregnant mum shouldn't smoke, regardless of reasons

    • profile image

      Hassan Masood Butt 

      4 years ago from Rawalpindi Pakistan

      We should smoke in an other room not in front of children


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