How to handle the issue of a child's exposure to secondhand smoke in New York.

Understanding the Risks of Secondhand Smoke to Children

Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is a serious health hazard that poses significant risks to children. In New York, as in many other places, children's exposure to secondhand smoke is an issue that draws concern from parents, healthcare professionals, and legislators alike. It can lead to a myriad of health problems in children, including asthma, respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Legal Framework in New York

New York has been at the forefront of smoking regulation. The state's Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in most workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces. However, when it comes to private settings such as homes and vehicles—common places where children may be exposed to secondhand smoke—regulation becomes more complex.

The question of exposure in private settings often intersects with family law, particularly in custody disputes where one parent may be concerned about their child's exposure to secondhand smoke when with the other parent. New York courts have considered secondhand smoke exposure when making decisions about the best interests of the child.

Addressing Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Parents or guardians concerned about a child's exposure to secondhand smoke have several avenues for addressing the issue:

Court Decisions on Secondhand Smoke

In cases where parents cannot agree, New York courts have taken steps to protect children from the harms of secondhand smoke. For example, in Poblete v. Poblete, a New York court found that exposing a child to secondhand smoke could constitute a change in circumstances warranting a modification of custody.

Additionally, in Bennett v. Bennett, the court granted a mother's request to prohibit her ex-husband from smoking in the presence of their child. These cases illustrate that courts may limit a parent's smoking around children if it is deemed detrimental to their health and well-being.

Practical Steps for Concerned Parents

If you are a parent concerned about your child's exposure to secondhand smoke in New York, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Document instances of exposure and any health issues suffered by the child as a result.
  2. Consult with a healthcare professional about the potential risks and remedies.
  3. Communicate your concerns directly to the other parent or caregiver involved.
  4. If necessary, seek legal advice on how to proceed with mediation or court action.


The welfare of children is paramount, and this includes protecting them from preventable health hazards such as secondhand smoke. In New York, there is precedent for courts intervening to safeguard children from such exposure within custodial arrangements. Proactive steps combined with legal measures can help manage this critical issue effectively.