Smoking Issues - PLEASE HELP!

Updated on March 07, 2011
M.D. asks from Saint Augustine, FL
25 answers

I NEED ADVICE!!!! Ok, so my husband and I used to be pack a day smokers. I quit smoking when I found out that I was pregnant and during my pregnancy he didn't smoke around me and quit smoking 3 months ago. Our baby was born 4 months ago. His parents were just social smokers until recently, now they smoke a lot more. I used to be really close to them until the baby was born because of the difference in beliefs of the baby. They don't smoke around her but the smell is in their house. I was told that before you let a smoker hold your baby to make them change their shirt or put on a non smoke smelling cover up. So when our daughter goes to their house it upsets me that it smells like cigarettes. I've found that it is putting a wedge in my relationship with them. My husband says I'm over reacting because they don't smoke around her, and the smell won't hurt her. I've been searching online to find if there is an answer to my question, is the smell of cigarettes harmful to a baby or am I being psycho and way too over protective? PLEASE help!!! This is an ongoing issue in our household. If it is harmful to her where can is the proof to show my husband?

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answers from Dallas on

I don't have any advice. My husband and his parents are smokers. When my daughter was born I continually asked my husband to have his parents wash their hands. Sometimes he didn't have the nerve to ask, other times if he asked his mom would get super defensive and yell "I did!" except that I would see her go outside, smoke, come back and get my baby. Even when I was pregnant my in laws would sit in the smoking section. So advice. Just know you aren't being over protective and good luck at getting the situation to change!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm a smoker, but I would never let my kids go into a home where people smoked inside. I never smoke in my house. Gross! Smoking outside is bad enough.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Huntsville on

I don't know anything about the effects of the smell. But, you might suggest they try electronic cigarettes. They don't contain the tar & other nasty stuff. You don't light them. There is no smoke. All it is is nicotine & water vapor, and you can get them with flavors (cherry, mint, etc). It is healthier for them, and there's no cigarette smell!!!

My husband has one called Blu. He loves it, and so do I because there is no smell!

So maybe that would be a good compromise? :)

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answers from Seattle on

We live in the city... where the air constitutes smoking at least 2 packs a day because of the pollution (living in the city is actually worse, because there are far more harmful chemicals in the air than you find in cigarettes). Which I sweat far more than people smoking around my kiddo, since he's not allergic (the whole changing of clothes thing, is for kids who have allergies) and doesn't have asthma.

2nd hand smoke takes daily exposure for years to have effect. So when we go to my IL's (who smoke in their home) I don't worry. We're there a few times a year. Vs people who are married to or grow up in a house full of smoke, a few days a year isn't going to have any effect (again, let me reiterate no asthma and no allergy... even 5 minutes to someone with an allergy; be it tobacco, cats, perfume, or peanuts... is immediately obvious). When we're outside (whether we're BBQ'ing which is equally as "bad" as cigarette or cigar smoke... or at a party with people smoking outside) I reeeeally don't sweat it, because the particulates in the outside are are so infinitesimal as to not even be worth notice. Ditto camping and campfires. Sure if we were actually q'ing or camping EVERY day it might become an issue, but we don't. In churches with chantors is actually far worse than being outside unless you're in a cathedral, then the same rules apply as outside. Smoke rises. Sure we can SMELL bbq or incense or cigarette smoke... but that's only because we're around it hardly at all. Anyone who spends a few days in the country/desert/mountains and then returns to the choking city air knows it only takes a few hours to become accustomed to the smell of city pollution again.

So for ME, it's far more about the people themselves than their habits. If I don't like the person and don't want them in kiddo's life, I don't care if they're mormon or a chainsmoking marine. If I DO like the person, and am thrilled with having them be in kiddo's life, I don't care if they're mormon or a chainsmoking marine.

This is from memory (which might be slightly off... because I don't have the study in front of me... it's packed away with my school stuff)... Just from breathing the air day in and day out... here are the city equivs:

NY 3-4 packs per day
Chicago 3-4 packs per day
LA 3-4 packs per day (unless there's an ocean wind, which drops it)
Seattle 2-3 packs per day
Miami 2-3 packs per day
Mexico City 5-6 packs per day

The lungs of a 2 pack per day smoker in the country are actually in better condition at time of death the vast majority of the time than 5mi per day runner who has never smoked but lived in the city. We actually got to see and palpate these lungs in school (since one of my profs is one of the academics who participate in a nationwide lung study, they brought their whole crate of plastic wrapped lungs in for us one day... it was jaw dropping).

So I don't sweat smoke... but I can't WAIT to get my family out of the city.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My parents are smokers, but they smoke outside.
My children do not stink from being with them, When the baby was younger i harped on them to wash hands etc, I even went as far as buying them purel and putting next to there chairs :)
Unless your children spend lots of time there, i would let it go.
Not worth ruining your relationship over.
Your children are getting more exposure to stuff that can harm them just being outside. from polution to pestisides.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I actually dont go inside my sisters house, becuase they smoke in there, I cant stand the smell and it gives me a headache, so I know it bothers my kids. Of course its not good for the baby, dotn know if harmful is the right word... just because they dont smoke around her, doesnt mean she cant smell it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Yes, it actually IS harmful! There are new studies to prove it as well. It is called 3rd hand smoke.

Have the grandparents come to your house instead. Also, since you know what it is called- print out some facts that you find and show it to your husband and his parents.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

The smell of smoke is considered "3rd-hand smoke," and yes, it can be harmful. I don't think you should worry so much about your in-laws' clothing (that's a battle you're just not going to win), and consider that the benefits of loving grandparents are probably more than the harm of a smelly shirt. However, taking your child into their home where there is probably 2nd-hand smoke lingering as well is a completely different matter. You need to get your husband on board with you, so call your pediatrician or hospital and ask if they can help you explain the dangers of 2nd-hand smoke to your husband. I hope you'll be able to convince him, because if you're fighting this battle alone, it's going to be a rough road. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

yes! there is new research about 3rd hand smoke - it's completely different from smoking personally and second-hand smoke.

Babies lungs are so delicate and fragile - I would not want my kids around grandparents who had the lingering smell of smoke in their house.

But, I'm also a cancer survivor - no one knows what caused my cancer (Hodgkins). I hate walking through the door to my office building and going past several smokers who are insensitive to other people (one lady smokes inside the revolving door so she doesn't have to go all the way outside).

We're going on vacation with some friends. The husband is a smoker, and we'll have a very candid conversation about smoking around the kids. He did it the other day. He's tried quitting several times and has exceeded the amount of Chantis (Rx smoking cessation drug) he can use. He's truly addicted, but it doesn't mean he has to affect the rest of us in the process.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Juan on

Your in-laws need to respect your baby period. If they cannot change their shirt when holding your child, then this shows they just don't care. My mother-in-law smokes. When my first child was born, she was kind enough to put on a different blouse upon finishing her cigarette. Also ensure the long hair is not in the way of the baby's face, as the hair will smell like cigarettes too. I would not subject my child to a house that smells like cigarette smoke, she can develop asthma from second hand smoke, and it just smells bad for her, she is so tiny, she should be made very comfortable. Kudos to you and your hubby for quiting the cigarette smoking. Yeah, non-smokers to include baby will be able to smell the cigarette smoke remants that smokers can't. Remember baby first!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Yes it is harmful to your baby. They should always change their shirt before holding the baby but even still if they are heavy smokers they always smell that way. I've even heard that if you smoke you should not put the baby in the same bed as you because of the links to SIDS. So yes it is scary and you should be worried. You are not over reacting at all they need to respect you and your beliefs. Heavy smokers do not see anything wrong with smoking around babies or anyone for that matter but it is extremely harmful. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

NO NO NO you are NOT overprotective and GOOD FOR YOU girl. I am the same way as cigarretes are soo bad for babies. I went to and typed in cigarettes and infants. I got alot of good results, like infants exposed to cigarrete smoke can lead to respiratory infection, SIDS, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis. Dont let anyone make you comparism your childs' health.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

I don't smoke and my parents don't smoke and going into my parents house it always smells clean and fresh and when you leave you smell clean and fresh. My house would smell the same except I have a cat so I have cat odor :o). Just something to ponder, when your child gets old enough to talk, she will come to you and tell you that grampa & gramma smell bad or stink. Kids are truly honest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Everything I have heard and read has stated that smoke on clothes & hair is harmful to a baby. If this family doesn't respect your request....well there is NO excuse for not respecting this request!
Dr Sears has a link on the topic.
Smoking increases a baby's risk of SID's4 WAYS SMOKING INCREASES THE RISK OF SIDS. Dr Sears does mentions "what happens when you take your baby into a room frequented by smokers." & "Smoke sticks to clothing and hair. When your baby nestles on your shoulder with his nose on your smoke-contaminated clothing and near your hair your baby's inhales pollutants."

Three are so many articles on the web. Print them out and let them read them. Or take them to your next appointment with the child's pediatrician.
Give him permission to give them an earful. If they try to make an excuse as to times not able to go to the Pedi, ask them what time one of them will be able to go...husband should go too. Many doctors have late and weekend hours. I'm sure if you explain why, the office will find a time for you.

Good luck. Do not let anyone talk you into doubting yourself.
Here are a few links I found

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My husband is a smoker too and the solution is fairly simple. Smoker jacket or sweater to wear outside to smoke in, and leave outside when not in use. If it can't be left outside then febreeze it. Wash hands after smoking thuroughly.

Yes it can affect your baby. I've read plenty of articles on this and the same facts are in every article. It can lead to asthema or God forbid SIDS. I would not worry too much about the SIDS though, because that is more so if there is smoking in the house and not very good ventilation. Asthema can develope just from your baby inhaling it from clothes. This is your baby, so don't be afraid to put your foot down and demand what you believe is right for your baby. If they can't comply, then they can visit you instead when they want to see her (or you and hubby too). Best of Luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Please, LOOK UP THIRD HAND SMOKE!!! that will be all the evidence you need if they really love your child like they say they do to stop smoking all together..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Excuse me but you are right to be nervous and upset about taking your daughter into a smokers house. Second and third hand smoke is far worse then first hand smoke. I can't stand to be around someone that stinks like smoke and I am an ex smoker. I see the harm smoking does to small children. I have a niece with four children and she refuses to quit smoking even though they have severe allergies from the smoke. Smokers care about nothing but their cigarettes....Stand up for your daughter, maker his parents come to your house if they want to see her and tell them not to smoke before they come. She has a right to a cancer, smoke free life..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with you and the smell can be bad. My older sis and her boyfriend smokes and my oldest likes to go over their house on weekends to play with her cousin and comes home reaking of smoke. I would guess that if they smoke in the house it would still linger. Maybe have them visit at your house but their clothes are still gonna smell.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I understand your concern and I had the same ones with my first baby.

If either you or your husbands family carries a pre-disposition to respiratory problems (like asthma and allergies) then yes, you have cause for concern. But baby has to be really sensitive to have trouble because of being held by someone who smokes.

If this isn't the case; just suck it up and just give the baby a bath and fresh clothes when you get home to get rid of the yucky smell.



answers from Melbourne on

The smell is still in the house, and on them, so she would still breathe it in when they hold her, this is tough, because you don't want to hurt their feelings-they really should quit for the sake of the baby and their own lives.



answers from Dallas on

The smell left behind is harmful. Tobacco tar gets into all fabrics and combines with other elements to create toxins that are harmful to your baby. It's called third-hand smoke.
Here are some helpful links:

Here are some articles:

New Scientist; 2/13/2010, Vol. 205 Issue 2747, p15-15, 1p
Section: News
In Brief

Residues of cigarette smoke on furniture and floors can turn carcinogenic, posing a possible health risk to young children

RESIDUES of cigarette smoke deposited on indoor surfaces can turn carcinogenic when they react with airborne chemicals. This "third-hand" exposure could in theory cause health problems, particularly in children, says Hugo Destaillats, a specialist in indoor pollution at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

His team found several chemicals on the inside of the cab of a half-pack-a-day smoker's truck, including a carcinogen called NNK. Destaillats's team reckon that NNK is produced when nicotine from tobacco smoke reacts with nitrous acid in the air.

To test the theory, the team deposited either nicotine or tobacco smoke on sheets of paper, and exposed them to nitrous acid. In both cases this produced the same chemicals found in the smoker's cab (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.###-###-####).

"Nicotine can persist on indoor surfaces for days, weeks and even months," says Destaillats. Young children who spend a lot of time on the floor could absorb these compounds through their skin, and the researchers argue that this means people should not smoke in homes and cars, and should replace nicotine-laden furniture and carpets.

The Dangers of Third-Hand Smoke.Full Text Available By: Ostrow, Nicole., 2/10/2010, p13-13, 1p

Thirdhand smoke may react with indoor air chemicals to form potential cancer-causing substances, a study found

Dateline: [Bloomberg] —

Tobacco smoke contamination lingering on furniture, clothes and other surfaces, dubbed thirdhand smoke, may react with indoor air chemicals to form potential cancer-causing substances, a study found.

After exposing a piece of paper to smoke, researchers found the sheet had levels of newly formed carcinogens that were 10 times higher after three hours in the presence of an indoor air chemical called nitrous acid commonly emitted by household appliances or cigarette smoke. That means people may face a risk from indoor tobacco smoke in a way that's never been recognized before, said one of the study's authors, Lara Gundel.

Previous research has shown that secondhand smoke, which is inhaled by nonsmokers exposed to fumes from cigarettes, raises the risk of cancer and heart disease. More research is needed to identify the potential health hazards of thirdhand smoke, Gundel said. Overall, tobacco use causes 20 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the study published in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We have considered that nicotine on surfaces has been pretty benign up to this point. It turns out we shouldn't say that now," said Gundel, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, in a Feb. 5 telephone interview. "People can be exposed to toxins in tobacco smoke in a way that's never been recognized before."

Residue Found

A spokesman for Philip Morris USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc., did not return a telephone call for comment. Spokesmen for Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc. did not respond to telephone calls for comment.

A previous study, published in the journal Pediatrics in January 2009, found residual tobacco smoke is deposited on furniture, carpeting and clothing and coined the phrase "thirdhand smoke."

Today's study found that when the residue from tobacco smoke settled on indoor surfaces, it mixed with indoor air pollutants to form tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs, which are potent cancer-causing substances found in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke.

The researchers checked for nitrosamine levels by exposing paper to smoke and then to nitrous acid, which is produced by gas ovens and burners that aren't properly vented and by cars. They also tested the surfaces on the inside of a truck of a heavy smoker.

In both cases they found the reaction between the nicotine in thirdhand smoke and the nitrous acid produced two known and potent nitrosamines. They also found a tobacco-specific nitrosamine that is absent in freshly emitted tobacco smoke.

Children Exposed

People, particularly infants and toddlers, are most likely exposed to these carcinogens by either inhaling dust or by skin contact, the authors said. Using fans and opening a window doesn't help eliminate the hazards because most of the nicotine and other substances from burning cigarettes aren't found in the air, but are absorbed by surfaces, Gundel said.

"Buildings, rooms, public places should be 100 percent smoke free," she said. "Replace nicotine-laden furniture, carpets and curtains. Nicotine absorbs into these materials. The stuff that's imbedded can continue to come to the surface."

The researchers are trying to determine how long these nitrosamines may last as a result of the interaction of thirdhand smoke and the indoor air pollutant, nitrous acid. They are also looking to develop ways to track exposure to nitrosamines.

"We know that these residual levels of nicotine may build up over time after several smoking cycles, and we know that through the process of aging, thirdhand smoke can become more toxic over time," said study co-author Hugo Destaillats, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of the Berkeley national lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, in a statement. "Our work highlights the importance of thirdhand smoke reactions at indoor interfaces, particularly the production of nitrosamines with potential health impacts."

The study was sponsored by the University of California's Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

I am also having the same issue. My parents smoke in their house, and we have been avoiding them. They live 6 hours away, and I don't want to stay with them. We are going to have to have the same talk. Tell your husband that this is a legitimate concern.

I hope this helps, and stick to your guns!


answers from Tallahassee on

OK don't hate me for asking you a question - are you ever going to take your baby outside? - there are harmful pollutants EVERYWHERE! Check your laundry soap, the water in your house has chemicals in it.
I understand that you want to protect her from everything but it is impossible. You will stress yourself out until you are crazy with it. Believe me with the first baby most Mom's freak out about all kinds of basic things.

I understand that the smell of stale cigarette smoke is vile, but just be careful how you approach your in-laws about your concerns. You don't want to come off as the "ex-smoking hypocrit who knows it all". Afterall she raised your husband from birth and you could sound like your damning her personal choices.

Try taking a clean cloth/blanket with you when you visit and drape it over your M-I-L before you hand her your baby and be outside if at all possible.
Good Luck



answers from Boca Raton on

How old is your baby? I would go to there house the least amount possible at least until your baby is a little older. Of course it will never be ok for anyone to be around second hand smoke. But if your child is still very young.. I would be as cautious as possible. My husbands parents both smoke too, it drives me crazy, but they are going to live the way they want to. It's up to us to protect our children. Honestly I don't really know what to do about it either, but my husband has been trying to get them to quit for years.. and hopefully one day they will. And I hope yours do too. Good luck.



answers from Jacksonville on

The only thing harmful is your attitude toward your baby's grandparents. If they are respectful enough to not smoke around the baby be glad. To expect them to sanitize their home to remove odor is crazy. The smell will not hurt the baby. They should wash their hands before handling the baby, especially if they had to touch the baby's mouth for something. Beyond that they are not going to harm you little one.

Though I am no longer a smoker, I did smoke through 4 babies and while my older three were growing up. Everyone turned out fine, no one was sickly, died, etc.......



answers from Nashville on

I agree with Riley on this one. I know that 2nd and 3rd hand smoke is harmful, but it really depends on how much the baby is exposed to it. A short visit once a week isn't a big deal, not compared with the family repercussions. If they were actively smoking around the baby, that would be different, or if they babysat her daily for you. But it does take long-term exposure to it for it to be a problem.

I also read studies about the carcinogens in the city. I didn't realize they were as bad as what she outlined, yikes! But people who get really upset about smelling a smoker for a few minutes in restaurant don't even realize they got WAY more lung damage walking across the parking lot. We lived overseas for a few years where the emmissions regulations are basically non existent, plus there was a volcano in the area, and the air there was so thick and nasty, we couldnt breathe for a few months. And we were smokers at the time! I shudder to think what the pack-per-day equivalent would be over there.

I would do some of the research you got, and ask your doctor, and then use that to decide how much exposure you really think she is getting based on how much time she spends there. I also don't like people to smoke around my kid, and my husband smokes outside but I make him change his shirt into his "smoking shirt" and wash his hands afterwards. My dad smokes and is around my son for a few hours a week with it on his clothes, and I don't worry about that. I was pretty paranoid about it at first, but I have gradually gotten less overprotective about it as he gets older, and have decided it isn't worth ruining my son's relationship with his grandparents.

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