Q: We are expecting our first child and differing on the way to approach the issue of smoking. My partner does not smoke and I quit four years ago; however, all four of her siblings and three of their spouses smoke. All of her adult nieces, nephews and most importantly her mother smokes. They all smoke constantly! How can we approach the subject of exposure of the toxins to our child with the family? Not just secondhand smoke, but the tar, nicotine and other poisons on thier hands and clothes after lighting up?
A: Congratulations! It is exciting to prepare for your first child, and it sounds like you're considering all of the important health and safety issues for a newborn. In addition to the known dangers of secondhand smoke, there is some recent research showing that 'thirdhand smoke', or the smoke residue of nicotine left on surfaces, clothing, and skin may also contain carcinogenic substances. Although the data are still preliminary, the researchers say that infants and children are at greatest potential risk. I would encourage your wife to gently approach this topic with her family, and describe this emerging research. Although smoking is a very difficult habit to kick, programs such as www.smokefree.gov provide guidance and resources proven to help smokers quit. Good luck, and many congratulations on your baby.