Third-Hand Smoke- What is it & How is it Dangerous?
by Ellen Ambrose in General / 01.15.09
When I was a kid, my dad smoked and he tried absolutely everything to stop the habit and when I say everything, I mean absolutely EVERYTHING. Here are the types of things that I can remember:
- going to hypnotherapy
- pushing an acupuncture needle in his ear when he had the urge to smoke
- flushing a dollar bill down the toilet each time he smoked a cigarette
- Aversion therapy at Schick-Shadel Centers where they force you to smoke and then shock you each time you put the cigarette up to your lips
- attending EST personal growth seminars where he tried to become empowered to quit smoking
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, my Dad knew that smoking was bad and he definitely felt the “bad” when he went running. The combination of asthma, smoking and running was not a healthy mix. I think he also knew that the second-hand smoke was bad for us and I think that he was trying to quit for himself but also for the family.
Second-hand smoke, also called passive smoking, happens when tobacco smoke permeates any environment causing inhalation by any and all people in the environment. Having me as a daughter meant that my father had a built in second-hand smoke siren at his side. The only way to turn off the hideous “Ellen” siren was to put the cigarette out.
Back then people just said that smoking was bad for you, but today we know that smoking along with second-hand smoke causes cancer, disability and death. This scientific consensus is what caused the smoke-free laws in most major American cities (more than half of Americans live in smoke-free cities). When we go into a city that allows smoking in restaurants and the hostess asks “smoking or non-smoking?”, I feel like I am dreaming; it doesn’t seem real to me that people can still smoke in restaurants.
I also happened to have been born and blessed with a special smoke detecting nose. When my father would announce that he had “quit” smoking, he would stash packs of Carlton 100 menthol cigarettes around the perimeter of the house and in the garage. I would look for them and throw them away; however a few made it past my inspections.
My father would sneak out of his bedroom door and light up in the alley. Somehow I would smell the smoke from inside the house with all the doors and windows closed. This is what you call third-hand smoke. If you are not inhaling the smoke directly, but can smell it, it becomes third-hand smoke. My response to the third-hand smoke was to promptly lock my father out of the house. He later became wise and hid spare keys outside but I eventually found those, too.
There are new studies that suggest that third-hand smoke is also extremely harmful. The New York Times reports that third-hand smoke refers to the “the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor”.
Third-hand smoke is what you smell when a person walks back inside after smoking, or if you can smell smoke all over their clothes or hands. Your nose is alerting you of the toxins. From what I have read, infants and children are a prime concern; however anyone who comes in contact with these harmful carcinogens is at risk.
I am happy to report that my dad does not smoke anymore. Somehow he quit, or at least he says he did. :)