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.
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.