SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Cigarette smoke can increase the risk of children developing asthma during their lives.
- Exposure to smoke may cause more frequent and more severe asthma attacks in children with asthma.
- Avoid smoking at home and in the car and ask your guests to do the same.
- While the short and long-term effects of e-cigarette use (vaping) are unknown, it is safer to not vape around children.
On this page
Asthma and smoking
Cigarette smoke can trigger asthma symptoms or an asthma attack in some people.
Children are particularly sensitive to tobacco smoke as their lungs are smaller and more delicate, and are still developing. Children who live with people who smoke have higher rates of asthma than children living with people who do not smoke, and their asthma is triggered more often.
Effects of second-hand smoke on asthma in children
Smoke, including tobacco smoke, is a common trigger for asthma.
Exposure to second-hand smoke by children with asthma increases the risk of developing symptoms earlier in life, having more symptoms and more asthma flare-ups.
Smoking in pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy can severely affect the developing baby. It increases the risk of childhood wheeze and adversely affects lung function of the child. It can also increase the risk of other health conditions including:
- sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) – previously known as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ (SIDS) or 'cot death'
- complications during birth
- having a low-weight baby who is more vulnerable to infection and health problems in adulthood
- preterm delivery (birth at less than 37 weeks)
- the baby being born with weaker lungs, which may persist into adulthood
- the baby having a weaker immune system
- the baby being overweight or obese in childhood.
Smoking by other people around a pregnant person can also affect the unborn baby and may result in lower birth weight of the baby. Smoking around an infant can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
E-cigarettes and asthma
Although e-cigarettes are likely to be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, they contain potentially toxic chemicals and the short and long-term impact of vaping remains unknown. While we don’t know for sure how e-cigarettes affect asthma and children’s health, it could make asthma worse. It is safer for your child to avoid inhaling anything that could be harmful.
Tobacco and e-cigarette laws in Victoria
The Tobacco Act makes it illegal to smoke or vape in all enclosed workplaces and many public spaces where people can be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke or aerosol from an e-cigarette.
The Tobacco Act bans smoking and vaping in more public places than ever before. Specifically, you cannot smoke or vape:
- in outdoor dining areas when food is being consumed including cafes, footpath dining, restaurants and pubs, food fairs, community and street festivals
- at enclosed restaurants, cafes and dining areas of hotels
- at licensed clubs
- at shopping centres
- in enclosed workplaces
- in a motor vehicle, if anyone under 18 is present at patrolled beaches
- at outdoor public children’s playgrounds, skate parks and sporting venues during organized under-age sporting events
- at under-age music or dance events
- at outdoor areas within public pool complexes
- within the grounds of, and within 4 metres of entrances to, childcare centres, kindergartens, pre-schools, and primary and secondary schools
- within 4 metres of entrances to children’s indoor play centres
- within 4 metres of entrances to public hospitals and registered health centres
- within 4 metres of entrances to certain Victorian Government buildings
- in courts or police stations
- at train stations, tram platforms, or tram and bus shelters.
There are on-the-spot fines for those who breach the law. More information is available from the Tobacco reforms section of health.vic.gov.au.
Visit Better Health Channel’s page on Victoria’s tobacco and e-cigarette laws for more information.
Similarly, all Australian states and territories have laws prohibiting smoking tobacco in cars carrying children of certain ages and in some public places, and laws about e-cigarettes.
Quit smoking for your children
Quitting smoking can be challenging, and you may try more than once before you succeed. But quitting smoking is one of the best things you will ever do for your health and wellbeing, and your children’s. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on how to start, and the tools available to you. You might find nicotine patches, inhalers or gum to be helpful.
Better Health Channel has tips on how to quit, and Quit Victoria Tel. 13 78 48 offers telephone support, as well as the QuitCoach and QuitTxt services.
Parents and carers are role models for their children. Once you quit smoking, you will set a great example to the children around you and reduce the chance that they will take up smoking later in life. You will also reduce your and your children’s risk of developing asthma or worsening asthma symptoms.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne – videos about children's asthma
- Quit Tel. 13 78 48
- Asthma Australia Tel. 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)
- Tobacco reforms, Department of Health, Victorian Government.
- Secondhand smoke and your family’s health, Quit.
- Secondhand smoke and the health of people around you, Quit.
- The risks of smoking while pregnant, Quit.
- Smoking and tobacco and pregnancy, Department of Health, Australian Government.
- Smoking and tobacco and children, Department of Health, Australian Government.
- Smoking triggers my asthma and allergies, National Asthma Council Australia.
- Smoking and asthma, Australian Asthma Handbook, National Asthma Council Australia.
- Legislation to ban smoking in public places, Chapter 15, Section 15.7, Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues.
- The law, The Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.