Smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in the first year of life.Footnote 1 Although there is no known cause for SIDS, research has identified smoking as one of the major preventable risk factors.Footnote 2


Infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and those exposed to second hand smoke after birth have an increased risk of SIDS.Footnote 2,Footnote 3,Footnote 4

The risk of SIDS increases with the number of smokers in the household, the number of cigarettes smoked and the proximity of the smoker(s) to the infant.Footnote 2,Footnote 3,Footnote 4,Footnote 5

There were 113 deaths from SIDS in Canada in 2007.Footnote 6 Research has shown that, in 2002, nearly one-third of SIDS deaths were due to smoking.Footnote 7

Infant bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS, particularly among infants of mothers who smoke.Footnote 8

How does smoking increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome?

Some of the chemicals in tobacco smokeFootnote 9,Footnote 10 alter the development of an infant's brain and the lungs. This in turn affects how an infant breathes and may be responsible for SIDS.Footnote 1,Footnote 5

The benefits of quitting

Women refraining from smoking while pregnant will reduce the risk of death among their newborns during the first 7 days.Footnote 2

Raising infants in a smoke-free environment will reduce the risk of SIDS as well as other smoking-related diseases.Footnote 2,Footnote 3,Footnote 4,Footnote 5.

Need help to quit? Call the pan-Canadian quitline toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.


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