When you smoke, it’s not just your health that suffers: Your family's health suffers as well. Your loved ones can be harmed by breathing secondhand smoke, which consists of the mainstream smoke that you exhale and the sidestream smoke that wafts from your cigarette. Sidestream smoke can be four times as harmful as mainstream smoke, according to a 2005 analysis in "Tobacco Control." Your family members haven’t chosen to smoke but are subject to the ill effects of passive and involuntary smoking not only now but many years into the future.
Your Smoke Is Their Smoke
Secondhand smoke accounts for 3,400 lung cancer deaths every year, according to a 2011 report from the American Lung Association. It’s responsible for more than 46,000 cardiovascular-related deaths and prompts hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma. Data from a 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that more than 40 percent of nonsmokers age 3 or older had nicotine levels in their bloodstream, which is indicative of recent exposure to secondhand smoke. That number rises to 54 percent for children ages 3 to 11 who live with a smoker.
Your Baby Needs You
If you want to expand your family, smoking can have a direct effect on your newborn’s health. According to a 2005 National Vital Statistics Report, 12 percent of babies born to smokers had low birth weight compared to 7.5 percent for nonsmokers. Pregnant women who smoke have a higher risk of miscarriage than nonsmokers, and their babies are more often born with developmental disabilities. Despite the risks, 10 percent of pregnant women smoked in 2008, according to an American Lung Association report.
Your Family Needs You
When you smoke, you put yourself at risk of disease or even death, and your poor health can take a toll on your family both emotionally and financially. One in 5 U.S. deaths are directly attributable to smoking, according to a 2013 American Cancer Society report. Half of all smokers will die due to smoking, and 8.6 million smokers will develop chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cardiovascular diseases as a direct result of their habit. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers; women are 13 times more likely.
Almost all smokers -- 90 percent -- start their habit by the time they turn 21, according to a 2011 American Lung Association report, and half are addicted by the time they turn 18. It’s important to set a good example by showing your children that smoking is unacceptable. In 2009, the U.S. government cited youth smoking as the root cause of America’s smoking pandemic when it passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The law restricts tobacco advertising directed at young people and requires proof of age for those who purchase cigarettes.
If You Must Smoke
If you can’t quit smoking, you can reduce your family’s health risks from secondhand smoke by banning smoking in your home and car. Such measures not only help your family, but they can motivate you to quit. After smoking, always wash your hands and change your clothes before handling children. Patronize restaurants with your family that are smoke free, and make sure your child's day care is a smoke-free zone. It’s perfectly acceptable to insist that others not smoke around your family due to the health risks of secondhand tobacco smoke.