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U.S. Surgeon General Celebrates “World No Tobacco Day 2005” as Part of “The Year of The Healthy Child”

May 31, 2005
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Children don’t enter this world as smokers — they are taught to do it. Caring adults must teach kids to never try tobacco. To commemorate “World No Tobacco Day 2005,” U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., today outlined 10 tips to prevent children from being exposed to second-hand smoke and from becoming tobacco users themselves. These tips are part of a series of health advisories that Dr. Carmona is issuing during “The Year of the Healthy Child.”

“I’ve declared this ‘The Year of the Healthy Child’ for the Office of the Surgeon General to encourage everyone to help keep children healthy and safe, from pre-birth through their teen years,” Dr. Carmona said. “On ‘World No Tobacco Day,’ which this year highlights the role of health professionals in tobacco control, it is only appropriate that I focus on one important way to protect our children’s health — prevent them from being exposed to tobacco smoke.”

Every year, more than 400,000 Americans die from smoking-related illnesses, still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

“A child’s first exposure to tobacco smoke often comes from the second-hand smoke of their own parents and loved ones,” said Dr. Carmona. “Second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous to children. Each year, second-hand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations. And because their lungs are not fully developed, young children exposed to smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and other problems. Second-hand smoke increases the number and severity of asthma attacks in asthmatic children, further adding to their discomfort and limiting their school and physical activities.”

It is also important that parents and other trusted adults communicate with children about staying away from tobacco. More than 4,000 children smoke their first cigarette each day.

“I hope every child will grow up healthy, happy, and able to reach their potential, because they are our future. Starting today, on World No Tobacco Day, we can take simple steps to protect both our children’s health and the future of our country,” said Dr. Carmona.

The Surgeon General's Tips to Prevent Tobacco Exposure in Children:

  1. Stop smoking! More than one-half of all adult smokers have quit smoking. You can, too. Get help if you need it. Smoking is a medical problem that may require help from a health professional. Nurses, doctors, dentists, and other health professionals are good sources of help to quit smoking. There are also many free or low-cost programs that can help you quit. Parents are a child’s first and most influential role models. We must set the example for our children by not smoking or using other tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco. For help to quit smoking, contact the National Network of Quitlines that offers free information and help to quit smoking. When you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, you will be connected to a trained Tobacco Cessation Specialist. Please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit today.
  2. For your baby’s sake, don’t smoke. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to a low birth weight baby (a leading cause of infant death) and can reduce your baby’s lung function. Even second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on your baby’s breathing and can have long-term respiratory consequences like impaired lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing. Diseases of the respiratory system (aggravated by second-hand smoke) are one of the leading causes of infant hospitalization and infant doctor visits.
  3. Don’t allow smoking in your home. Between 50 and 67 percent of children under age 5 live in homes with at least one adult smoker. Children’s exposure to second-hand smoke in the home can and should be reduced to zero. Also, smoke lingers in the air and in fabrics, so children can still be exposed to second-hand smoke even if no one is smoking while they are present
  4. Don’t smoke while holding a child or when near a child. The closer a cigarette is to your child, the higher the concentration and quantity of disease-causing smoke he or she breathes in. Cigarettes can also cause burns and fires. All cigarettes should be kept away from children.
  5. Do not allow smoking in your motor vehicle. The high concentration of smoke in a small, closed compartment like a car can significantly increase the health risks associated with second-hand smoke.
  6. Be certain that your child's schools and child care facilities are smoke free. In most states it is against the law for anyone to smoke on or near school grounds or child care facilities. It is up to parents and other caring adults to make sure that any violations are reported to the authorities.
  7. Insist on being in the non-smoking section in restaurants and other public places. Good health begins at home, but it does not end there. Do not settle for being seated in the smoking section, and if an establishment does not have a non-smoking section, consider taking your business elsewhere.
  8. Talk with your child about the dangers of tobacco. For example, when watching a movie, talk with your child about what the character who is smoking is doing to his or her health. Kids need constant reinforcement of positive health messages. Remember that young people are constantly pressured by advertisements and pop culture — and maybe by even their friends — to become smokers.
  9. Do not allow caregivers to smoke around your child. This includes babysitters, grandparents, neighbors, and anyone else who watches over your children. It may be difficult to tell your family and friends what not to do around your children, but your children’s health comes first.
  10. Take an active interest in your child’s social life. Ask if your child’s friends smoke. Be aware of who your child hangs out with and if they smoke. Encourage your child to tell his or her friends why smoking is bad and why they don’t want to be exposed to it. If your child has friends who use tobacco products, teach your child to encourage his or her friends to seek help from his or her parents and from a health care professional — such as a school nurse — to quit smoking. Also, encourage your child to participate in fun activities like sports, music, and community volunteering that help encourage a healthy lifestyle.

For more information about how to quit smoking call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit

For more information on “World No Tobacco Day” visit Exit Disclaimer

For more information on “The Year of the Healthy Child” visit


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

Last revised: January 10, 2008