I’m not going to write a post on why smoking is bad, it’s too obvious and if you don’t understand why then your probably never going to find this post anyway. I’m not even going to talk about second hand smoking, ie. blowing your death cloud at me on the street. Again it’s obvious why it’s bad and may even be worse than smoking the cigarette itself as second hand smokers don’t get the benefit of a filter. No, this post is about third hand smoking, a fun new way smokers can harm those around them long after they have butted out.
|Yeah. That looks healthy.|
I want to say here I don’t hate smokers, just smoking. That position will change however if you smoke near my food or drink or blow smoke directly at me. If you do that I’m going to nerd rage and you will take both barrels from someone who has spent the last decade in biomedical science. Just a warning…
The terms first, second and third hand smoke describe where the smoke came from. First hand smoke goes directly from the cigarette into the smokers lungs, second hand smoke comes from the exhaled smoke or smouldering end of a lit cigarette into a non-smoking persons lungs and third hand smoke is the contamination and subsequent consumption of items in an environment after the cigarette has been extinguished.
As the smoke dissipates and becomes invisible we tend to forget about it but cigarette smoke is full of fine particulate matter that then settles on everything in the local environment. Subsequent cigarettes layer particulate on top of previous layers and so a build up occurs. The smaller the area you smoke in the quicker the build up, for example the worse place seems to be the car.
Sleiman et al. (2010) looked at the formation of carcinogens on surfaces by looking at the interaction of nicotine and nitrous acid (found in the air) and found that if they left a cellulose pad in a smokers car to absorb third hand smoke and react with the air they could collect known carcinogens. In total they found 11 different carcinogens including, wait for it, polonium-210!!!
Of course smokers also carry around third hand smoke on their skin and clothes so they too are also a walking, talking source of contamination.
The harm in third hand smoke is exaggerated in children, which of course is excellent. Children have higher respiration rates and so take in second hand smoke faster but also crawl around on the ground and put things in their mouths which are covered in third hand smoke residues. That’s not anecdotal either, children consume up to 20 times the amount of dust that adults do and when third hand smoke residue is present children get the brunt of the exposure.
At this stage no specific diseases have been linked to third hand smoke exposure but it is only a matter of time. In 2006 the US Surgeon General stated that there is no-risk free level of tobacco exposure and with more than 250 identified dangerous chemicals in each cigarette that’s a bit of an understatement. Prolonged second hand smoking is now associated with all sorts of respiratory conditions and cancers. Given that third hand smoking was only first described in 2010 it wont be long till we identify associated problems with cigarette residue exposure. Given the exposure to children is exaggerated many are tipping currently unexplained developmental impairment as a serious consequence of third hand smoking.
So how do we deal with third hand smoke? Easy actually. Beg, plead, cajole and support everyone you know to quit. Clean all your surfaces regularly, particularly around children and quit! Seriously, please quit.Avol EL, Gauderman WJ, Tan SM, London SJ, & Peters JM (2001). Respiratory effects of relocating to areas of differing air pollution levels. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 164 (11), 2067-72 PMID: 11739136
|This blog is a no smoking area.|
Sleiman M, Gundel LA, Pankow JF, Jacob P 3rd, Singer BC, & Destaillats H (2010). Formation of carcinogens indoors by surface-mediated reactions of nicotine with nitrous acid, leading to potential thirdhand smoke hazards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107 (15), 6576-81 PMID: 20142504