Protecting children from second hand smoke

Lara Adams had only just brought her newborn daughter home to her apartment when she found her neighbours’ cigarette smoke had drifted in through an open window and covered the baby’s bassinet..

The disturbing experience started Lara on a campaign to get laws changed to provide protection from second hand smoke in homes.

“People should have the right to determine whether or not there is smoke in their homes, particularly with all the health risks associated for their children,” Lara says.

The ongoing problem in her building in Chippendale, Sydney has Lara concerned about the health risk to her two children, now aged 3½ years and 21 months. Lara’s doctor has said her daughter is likely to get asthma, which Lara attributes to her exposure to cigarette smoke. As well as the well known health risks from tobacco smoke, it is also one of the risk factors for sudden and unexpected death in infancy.

Unfortunately, Lara’s efforts to negotiate with her smoking neighbours have so far failed. At her building’s AGM last year, she put forward a smoking restriction by-law but fell short of the 75 per cent support required.

“We have made it very clear to everyone in our block that protecting the health of our children is something we are passionate about,” Lara says

She also sought help from her strata manager who wrote a letter to residents but would act no further.

By talking to councils and lawyers Lara found the problem, from a legal point of view, is strata laws do not explicitly recognise second hand smoke as a nuisance.

“Because it’s not explicitly outlined in the law, strata managers just don’t now how to deal with it.

“They (children) are protected at the park, they’re protected at the day care centre, and if I decide to take them to the pub they’re protected at the pub. There’s a real inconsistency in the way public and private laws protect you against tobacco smoke, which is a huge heath issue and it’s not just confined to the smoker.”

So when Lara heard about the review of NSW Strata Law she took the opportunity to give a voice to the concerns of people like her by creating an online petition with the help of the NSW Cancer Council and Action on Smoking and Health. The petition asks for second hand drift smoke to be included as a nuisance and a hazard under NSW Strata Law. More than 1500 people have signed.

“If this law changed then strata managers will be able to have this as part of their training. It would really open up the issue,” Lara says.

She has also sent more than a thousand letters and received support from many councillors in Sydney – some have even distributed fliers for her.

Lara plans to make another attempt to introduce her by-law and encourages like-minded people to sign her petition and contact their state MP.

“The fact that you have no choice but to join in and smoke with your neighbours is just ridiculous; it’s an adult activity – why is it being forced on to children?”

More information

Watch Lara’s community services announcement here.

View the ASH fact sheet on tobacco and children here.

Read the SIDS and Kids Information Statement on smoking here.

For information on how to sleep a baby safely go to

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