Secondhand Smoke

In the UK an estimated 2 million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. Secondhand smoke (sometimes referred to as passive smoke) is particularly harmful to the health of children and has been linked to an increased risk of various illnesses such as asthma, ear infections and sudden unexpected death in infancy. With recent UK legislation making it against the law to smoke with a person under 18 in the car, children and adults are more aware about the risks to health.

This lesson aims to increase children’s understandings of the dangers of secondhand smoke, so that they can protect themselves in and outside of the home. It focuses on understanding the effects on health, both short and long term and helps them to consider ways of protecting themselves. In particular, it requires them to develop a persuasive argument for a smoke free home.

When running this lesson, it is important to consider that a proportion of the children may be exposed to secondhand smoke themselves. Sensitivity is required to ensure that they do not leave the lesson worried for their own health. This risk can be reduced by the teacher emphasising the fact that whilst secondhand smoke is harmful to health, it is by no means as harmful as actually smoking themselves.

It is also important to emphasise that whilst young people can have an influence on family and encourage them to quit smoking and make a smoke free home, ultimately the decision to smoke is the choice of an individual. To ensure that children do not go home and hassle parents, it is advisable to explain that most people respond better to information on the benefits of quitting than criticism and information on the effects.

Purpose of session

To help young people understand the effects of smoking on health and to be aware of different attitudes to smoking.

Key learning outcomes

  1. Describe where secondhand smoke can be found and the danger it presents.
  2. Explain the dangers of secondhand smoke for children.
  3. Describe ways to protect yourself from secondhand smoke and write a persuasive argument to protect a child.
Stage 1 - Demonstrating knowledge

Dangers of secondhand smoke

Resources needed:

Powerpoint projector, Slides.

Key learning outcome

Describe where secondhand smoke can be found and the danger it presents.
  • In pairs, ask pupils to try to define second hand smoke. You may need to refer to it as ‘passive’ smoking as pupils may be more familiar with this term.
  • Take feedback from pupils to produce a definition. Summarise with the definition and Slides 3-4. Discuss briefly, situations where pupils may themselves be exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Put pupils in pairs and give them the worksheet 'Secondhand smoke and children'. Ask pupils to label how second hand smoke might affect the baby, now and into adulthood.
  • Feedback using Slides 5 -7.

Stage 2 - Presenting new information

Resources needed:

Powerpoint projector with sound, Slides, Internet access.

Key learning outcome

Explain the dangers of secondhand smoke for children.
  • Present pupils with 2 NHS Smoke Free Ads on Slide 8

    NHS Smokefree Home TV Advert

    NHS Smokefree Cars TV Advert

  • Ask pupils 'Which dangers of secondhand smoke worry you most?'
  • Present Slides 9-11 to summarise and discuss. Remember to explain that pupils should not worry, as secondhand smoke is not as harmful as if the child smoked themselves. Steps can be taken to protect themselves.

Stage 3 - Applying and reflecting

Resources needed:

Powerpoint projector, Slides.

Key learning outcome

Describe ways to protect yourself from secondhand smoke and write a persuasive argument to protect a child.
  • Discuss and take suggestions about how a child living with a smoker might protect themselves from secondhand smoke.
  • Summarise with Slide 12.
  • Present and read through scenario on Slide 13.
  • Ask pupils to work individually to write a letter to Tom’s parents, explaining the benefits of a smoke free home. Encourage the use of evidence and persuasive language (Slide 14).

Further support

This lesson focuses on the impact of secondhand smoke on health and well-being. A short reflection on previous learning on smoking would make a good introduction. Be aware that you may need to allocate time at the end of the session for any concerned pupils who have family members who smoke.

Further information

If pupils need further information about smoking in general you can direct them to the Hampshire NHS Stop Smoking Service, Quit4Life or The Filter for information about smoking for young people.