Smoking parents

  • The facts

    Parent smoking is an important child and adolescent health issue. Children with a parent who smokes have a significantly increased risk of disease, hospitalisation, SIDS, and a doubled risk of that child taking up smoking themselves in adolescence.

    Diseases in children associated with parent smoking include:

    • Croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants
    • Wheezing illnesses and asthma
    • Otitis media, tonsillitis and the need for surgery for both
    • Anaesthetic complications
    • Serious bacterial infections such as meningococcal disease
    • Possibly vascular phenomena such as Perthes Disease

    How do smokers quit?

    Quitting smoking is a process that occurs over time, not an event. Smokers rarely just stop- there are many small steps a smoker needs to go through to move from thinking about quitting to actually trying to give up. If done sensitively, brief advice from a health professional can help to move them along that path towards quitting. In the adult health setting, a doctor's routine recommendation to a smoking patient that they should quit has been shown repeatedly to lead to a small but significantly increased likelihood of smoking cessation.

    What to do

    1. Ask ALL parents about smoking

    2. If a parent smokes, let them know you/ the hospital believes parent smoking is an important child health issue (The majority of parents who smoke expect that health professionals will address their smoking). Do this sensitively [See examples:  suggested lines] so as to keep them engaged on the subject; the danger is leaving them more resolved that they will continue to smoke!!

    3. If parents seem interested in quitting, give them what help you can. If you do not have the knowledge, skills and time to do much (ie. the majority of us!) refer them on to an expert. GP's and the Quitline (131 848) are the sources of help parents say they most prefer. We have a downloadable letter for the family's GP and a quickfax form for the quitline for you to use.

    4. Positively reinforce any efforts that a parent is making towards smoking cessation (see links).

    Other resoucres


    The Clean Air for The Kids handout is also available for download in the following languages:

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