Healthy Living in the North

Third-hand smoke, have you heard of it?

Woman lighting a cigarette

The health impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke are relatively well-known, but do you know about the dangers of third-hand smoke?

Third-hand smoke is the stale, smoky odour that lingers in the air that is left behind after a cigarette is extinguished. Electronic cigarettes and other vapourizing devices also leave behind chemicals for others to breathe.

It’s now common knowledge that smoking is harmful and breathing in second-hand smoke is equally harmful to the non-smoker. However, third-hand smoke could be harmful as well.

Like second-hand smoke, third-hand smoke is composed of toxic carcinogens like arsenic, lead, and cyanide as well as heavy metals. Although the visible cigarette smoke is gone, its particles can be deposited onto every surface of a home or vehicle. Sticky, highly toxic particulates can cling to clothes, furniture, flooring, ceilings, walls, hair, skin, toys and bedding. Gases can be absorbed into carpets, draperies, and other upholstery or even incorporated into the environment’s dust. These gases can still be inhaled long after a cigarette has been extinguished.

Third-hand smoke residue is a health hazard for children. Children breathe faster and can inhale more of the toxins. They also crawl on, play on, or are closer to the dusty, contaminated surfaces where the toxic chemicals lay in wait. This increases children’s exposure and puts them at greater risk from the harmful effects of third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is also resistant to normal cleaning. Simply airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home does not remove the residue left behind from third-hand smoke.

Making homes, vehicles and schools smoke-free is the best way to avoid third-hand smoke.

Avoid exposure to third-hand smoke with these tips:

  • Do not smoke tobacco around children.
  • Shower and wash your hands after smoking.
  • Keep all surfaces clean.
  • Identify your home as smoke-free and do not allow people to smoke in your house or car.
  • Consider wearing a jacket or shirt that can be removed after smoking, especially when holding a child.
  • If you are a tobacco user, quit! Visit QuitNow for resources to help you quit.
Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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A highly sophisticated, engineered, and deadly product

List of tobacco-related statistics.

Nicotine may not directly cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, or COPD, but it’s the nicotine addiction that keeps smokers craving and inhaling harmful smoke and chemicals.

No doubt, you’ve heard at some point in your life that smoking isn’t good for you. If you are a smoker, you’ve probably been told many times to quit. Chances are that if someone close to you smokes, you’ve been the one telling them to quit.

Despite the health risks linked to smoking, the overall smoking rate for B.C. is 11%. Smoking rates in northern B.C. are much higher, however, at 23.1%.

Have you ever wondered why?

In looking back on my 7 years of working in tobacco reduction, I am amazed at how many people underestimated how addictive nicotine is and how unaware smokers were regarding the harmful effects of smoking. Many people think that smoking is just a habit or a lifestyle choice. Some think that only more willpower is needed to quit smoking. However, the reality is that nicotine is a drug and smoking is a powerful addiction that makes it difficult to quit!

Nicotine follows the same reward pathways in the brain as heroin & cocaine. After the cigarette smoke is inhaled, the nicotine gets absorbed in the lungs within 7 seconds – yes, that quickly! Then it stimulates neuroreceptors and releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that makes you feel relaxed, helps with concentration and gives you a bit of a boost. Keep repeating this process, and nicotine addiction is born.

The cigarette is a highly sophisticated product and is engineered to be a very effective nicotine delivery system. However, nicotine addiction is only one of the risks that come with smoking. In the white cloud of cigarette smoke, over 7,000 chemicals are released when the tobacco is burned. These include tar, nail polish remover, candle wax, battery acid, and formaldehyde – to name just a few! These chemicals are toxic and poison your internal organs, especially your heart and lungs. Over 70 of these chemicals are linked to various cancers.

The reality is that nicotine does not cause cancer or heart disease or stroke or COPD. However, it is the nicotine addiction that keeps smokers craving and inhaling the tobacco smoke and all those chemicals. Nicotine is extremely potent and addictive and contributes to tobacco dependency. Just because the intake of nicotine is legal does not make it OK. Nicotine is impacting the health of Canadians by the thousands each year.

The statistics are staggering:

  • Tobacco use is the #1 cause of preventable death & illness in Canada.
  • Tobacco users have a 50% higher risk of heart attack.
  • The risk of suffering a stroke is 8 times greater for smokers.
  • Smoking is the #1 cause of lung cancer.
  • Approximately 37,000 people in Canada die each year from a smoking-related illness.

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and it’s important to remember the process rarely happens in one step.

The good news is that there is help to quit if you are a tobacco user or would like to help a tobacco user quit.

Check out quitnow.ca for free counselling service and resources or dial 8-1-1 (HealthLink BC) to access the BC Stop Smoking Program for free nicotine replacement therapy.

Now that you know a bit more about how addictive nicotine truly is, what can you do to stop the addiction either for yourself or to support somebody with their smoke-free journey?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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Health is a journey, not a destination

Photo of man holding basketball

After a health screening, Duane Jackson took steps to improve his health and is sharing his story and tips to inspire other men.

This week is the 2nd Annual Canadian Men’s Health Week. It’s an excellent opportunity to look at some of the highlights of men’s health work in the north and to acknowledge some of the men who are making positive changes in their lives. I thought it would be a great time to share my interview with Duane Jackson.

Duane is Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton but has lived in Prince Rupert most of his life. Duane shared with me his story of how he has taken steps towards improving his health.

What motivated you to look at your health?

Every year, I do the health screening that is offered at the All Native Basketball Tournament. Two years ago, I was honoured to be the Male Role Model for both this initiative and the tobacco reduction program. I thought that this title should be more than just show! When I first did the testing, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were all pretty high so I started taking steps towards lowering those by looking at what I was eating and by being more active. This past year, I went in and took the screening again and my blood sugar and blood pressure were lower but my cholesterol was twice as high as it was supposed to be. At 48 years old, this wasn’t something I was willing to simply look past and not take seriously.

What did you do?

It was recommended to me that I see my doctor and have further tests done. I booked an appointment right away and the tests came back with the same results. Between my doctor and I, we came up with the plan to lose 30 pounds over the next 6 months. I started walking to and from work every day. In fact, any time I had to go out, I walked. I cut caffeine completely out of my diet and my energy levels went up within the week. I started eating foods with healthier fats, like walnuts, to help with my cholesterol. I started checking labels for saturated fats and was surprised to find that some foods that we are being told are very healthy really aren’t. Check the label!

What changes have you noticed?

I haven’t really checked my weight but I can tell you that I have had to purchase new clothing as my other shirts were starting to hang off me and all of my pants are too big. I even pulled on a pair of pants that I had stopped wearing a while ago when they got too small! I am also looking to use the belt punch for the first time, well, ever.

I have started to see things differently, too. I thought that I had played my last game of basketball, but now I’ve purchased a new pair of shoes and am planning to make my 48-year-old comeback next season!

Any message you’d like to share with men?

As a very good friend pointed out to me, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it.” I would recommend to all men to get the health screening done because I was feeling pretty healthy and the truth is that I wasn’t. As a father of three, I can say that knowing was my first step.

The steps afterward weren’t life-ending decisions, they were only a life change and, truthfully, not hard ones. I still have a treat every now and then and even treat myself to fast food occasionally – I just walk home afterward. Also, I don’t think that I’m aiming for the 30 pounds anymore, I’m simply aiming to be healthy. I won’t know when I’ve reached the pounds I wanted to lose, I’m fairly certain that this is my life from now on.

Haa’mii’yaa,

Duane

Feeling motivated yet? What things have you done this week to improve your health?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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