Risk of exposure to second-hand smoke increases during lockdown

With most people at home and schools closed, new evidence suggests that lockdown is leading to more frequent exposure to second-hand smoke, particularly amongst children.

Warnings come from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), British Lung Foundation, Fresh and Breathe 2025, with evidence from the YouGov COVID tracker.

Children whose family smoke are at increased risk of exposure during this time as they no longer spend time away at school, and smoke-breaks which would have previously occurred during work, are now happening at home. The YouGov COVID tracker shows 12% of smokers who live with children report they are smoking more indoors than they did before lockdown.

There are also concerns that smokers are not accesing the right support to quit and protect those around them at this unprecedented time. Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, which is leading a campaign to encourage smokers to QuitForCovid, said:

“This is an issue of equity. If you live in a high-rise block, taking your smoke outside is much harder than in a semi-detached with a garden.

“We know parents who smoke are trying to quit and reduce the amount they smoke  and we need to make sure they have the support the need to do this. I urge smokers to get in touch with local services and to use other sources of nicotine as an alternative to smoking indoors if they need help to handle cravings.”



85% of second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless but has been found to contain higher concentrations of the 4000+ chemicals in tobacco smoke, than the smoke inhaled by smokers. Opening a window or door does little to help as smoke from one cigarette can linger for two and a half hours, even in a ventilated space.

Emerging research shows a secondary risk from second-hand smoke (also called third-hand smoke) where smoke is lingering on carpets, furnishings and walls, which then gradually release them back into the air.

Second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children as they have less-developed airways, lungs and immune system, and they breathe more rapidly. There is also significant risk of exposure to pregnant women including: low birth weight, congenital anomalies and increased risk of miscarriage and still birth.

Among adults, people with pre-existing heart or respiratory conditions can be more vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke, but exposure in general significantly increases the risk of conditions linked to regular smoking including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, lung cancer and breast cancer.



The best thing you can do for your health and that of your family and children is to quit smoking. And there has never been a better time.

The Stop Smoking Service is currently running telephone support appointments, Monday to Friday throughout the day, as well as Saturday mornings. We are here to offer you FREE support and guidance, making you three times more likely to quit.

Please call 0800 013 0553 or to refer yourself via the website please click here