Secondhand Smoke is a Cause of SIDS
Not merely a risk factor
For years, secondhand smoke exposure was considered
a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In June, 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General's report The
Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco
Smoke concluded that secondhand smoke is a known
cause of SIDS, not simply a risk factor for SIDS.
"The scientific evidence is now indisputable:
secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance," U.S.
Surgeon General Richard H. Camona was quoted as saying
in a press release.
"It is a serious health hazard that can lead to
disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking
The comprehensive scientific report finds that infants
who died from SIDS tended to have higher concentrations
of nicotine in their lungs and higher levels of cotinine
(a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure)
than infants who died from other causes.
In addition, the report found that both babies
whose mothers smoked while pregnant and babies who
are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more
likely to die from SIDS than babies who are not exposed
to cigarette smoke.
Secondhand smoke and smoking during pregnancy
compromise an infant's health in many ways:
- Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while
pregnant are more likely to have lower birthweight
babies, which makes babies weaker and increases their
risk for many health problems.
- Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant or who
are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have
weaker lungs than other babies.
- Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory
infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants
and young children.
North Carolina's High SIDS Rate
North Carolinians should take special note as the
North Carolina SIDS rate exceeds the national average.
SIDS is the third leading cause of infant mortality
in the state accounting for 10 percent of infant deaths
last year. SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants
ages 1-12 months. In 2005, 105 infants died suddenly
Ways to Help
Health and social service professionals can play a
critical role in helping North Carolina families reduce
the risks of SIDS. Those who work with pregnant women
and families with infants can raise awareness about
the potentially deadly consequences of smoking and
The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation created
tips to help women protect their babies from secondhand
smoke. The Foundation asks that you share these tips
Pregnant Women Can Keep Secondhand Smoke Away By:
- Letting family members, friends, and co-workers
know that breathing secondhand smoke affects their
- Asking others to keep their home and car smoke-free.
- Going to public places that do not allow smoking.
- Encouraging employees to create a smoke-free workplace.
Mothers Can Keep Secondhand Smoke Away From Their
- Asking others not to smoke around the baby, including
in the car.
- Choosing a childcare provider or babysitter who
does not smoke.
- Avoiding places where people are smoking.
- Putting up "No Smoking" signs in the home as a
- Asking smokers to wash their hands and change their
clothes before holding the baby.
here to the U.S. Surgeon General's report regarding
smoking and SIDS.
here for a brochure about keeping babies safe
from secondhand smoke.
here for resources to help you quit smoking or
call NC Tobacco Quitline
Click here to
order free educational materials.
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