Are Your Kids Truly in a Tobacco Free Environment? How to Know & What to Ask


This article is sponsored by Tobacco Free Wichita.

Baby in tobacco free homeHealthy lungs are more important now than ever. We know that as a parent, you want your child to be in a safe, tobacco free environment in their day care setting. Exposure to second and thirdhand tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapor can cause many negative health outcomes, especially in children. Encourage your child care provider to be recognized as a Sedgwick County Clean Air Child Care provider and see what providers have already been recognized here.

The Tobacco Free Wichita Coalition is recognizing child care providers that go above and beyond what Kansas Regulations require for tobacco free environments. Current regulations have gaps that don’t protect children fully from the effects of secondhand and thirdhand smoke, vaping and e-cigarette use. Providers that can answer no to the following questions and provide a written policy, are eligible to be recognized.

Do you allow smoking, vaping (e-cigarettes, JUUL and similar devices) or chewing tobacco:

  • Inside any portion of your home when children ARE NOT present?
  • In garages, outdoor areas, or on patios when children ARE NOT present?
  • In garages, outdoor areas, or on patios when children ARE present?
  • Inside any vehicle that could be used to transport children in your care?
  • During field trips, walks or other off-site activities with children?

Smoking is still the number one cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S.. It harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Secondhand smoke is the smoke from the burning end of tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke! Even brief exposure can be harmful to health. Secondhand smoke contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year. Secondhand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals including hundreds that are toxic and approximately 70 that are known to cause cancers. Because their bodies are developing, infants and young children are especially vulnerable to the poisons in secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke causes the following negative health effects in children:

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms and infections
  • Greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Thirdhand smoke is the chemical residue that is left behind on clothes, skin, furniture, walls, toys, and other surfaces after someone smokes. A child can be exposed to more than 250 dangerous chemicals contained in thirdhand smoke by touching or being held by someone who took a smoke break outside, by crawling on carpet or playing with toys in a home that has been smoked in previously, or by sitting in a car seat that has been in the car with a smoker.

Tobacco free environments in the community, at home, and in the child care setting can help families:

  • Protect people from the harms or secondhand smoke, thirdhand smoke, and e-cigarette aerosol
  • Reduce disease and death caused by tobacco
  • Motivate quit attempts
  • Reduce tobacco use initiation among youth
  • Model healthy behaviors

Quitting the use of tobacco products of any kind is the best way to protect the well-being of children and smokers are significantly more likely to quit successfully if they use evidence-based counseling and medication treatment. The Kansas Tobacco Quitline or 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a telephone-based tobacco cessation service, available at no cost, that provides a variety of services including counseling, to help tobacco users quit. Counseling is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and several languages are available. The Quitline is currently offering all enrollees 4 weeks of Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (patch, gum, lozenge) that will be shipped directly to their home.

Call to action for parents – talk to your child care provider about the importance of tobacco free environments. If your provider is 100% tobacco free, encourage them to be recognized through Tobacco Free Wichita. If your provider is not tobacco free, encourage them to contact connect with TFW for free technical assistance.

Call to action for child care providers – many free resources are available to support a tobacco free environment. Contact TFW for free technical assistance.

Shelley Rich is a Tobacco Control Coordinator in Sedgwick County through the Kansas Department of Health & Environment’s Chronic Disease Risk Reduction Grant. She facilitates the Tobacco Free Wichita Coalition which has existed since the 1970’s to protect residents from the adverse effects of tobacco.

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