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A Lingering Danger?

Posted January 08, 2009 12:00 AM by Sharkles

With a New Year comes a new resolution - to take better care of oneself. For some, this means quitting smoking. It's not an easy resolution to accomplish, but new research published this week may provide additional encouragement to those trying to kick the habit. Researchers have given a name to the invisible, lingering effects of cigarette smoke called "third-hand smoke".

First, Second, and Third-Hand Smoke

Let's define first-hand smoke and second-hand smoke. First-hand smoke is what a smoker inhales. This smoke is toxic to the smoker, but cigarette filters may help reduce some toxins. Second-hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a combination of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled from smokers. This smoke can linger in the air for hours, and is inhaled involuntarily by nonsmokers. Second-hand smoke can pose serious health risks to nonsmokers even though they were not smoking directly.

Researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts describe third-hand smoke as what remains after second-hand smoke is gone. Third-hand smoke refers to the gases and particles that linger in hair, and on clothes or fabrics. Some of what remains includes hydrogen cyanide, butane, toluene, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide, and polonium-210.

Reasons Behind the Study

The study done at MassGeneral Hospital is published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics, and focuses on the harm that third-hand smoke can have on children and infants. Researchers claim that many parents don't realize the risk of third-hand smoke. "Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don't know about this," explains Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

According to parents surveyed in the study, third-hand smoke isn't something that is known about. They've found ways to get "rid" of second-hand smoke – by turning on a fan, opening a window, waiting until the kids are outside to smoke, etc. Once the visible smoke was gone, the parents assumed that the air was safe for their children. According to Dr. Winickoff, the term third-hand smoke was coined to give name to the invisible toxins left behind from tobacco.

Implications

Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who heads the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, believes that third-hand smoke is a term that has implications for behavioral change. "The central message here is that simply closing the kitchen door to take a smoke is not protecting the kids from the effects of that smoke…There are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who comes into contact with them."

Cigarette smoke is so distant and strong that it's important to know that just smelling it could be harmful. However, the most interesting thing I came across when reading about this topic is the question of whether the implications of third-hand smoke are an "alarm too far". Granted, the question comes from someone's blog, but I thought it was a good question for CR4 readers.

The blogger asks their readers, "Is this just a logical extension of the dangers that we already understand about exposing children to tobacco smoke or is it an alarm too far that will alienate parents who already know that they shouldn't be smoking around their children?"

I am posing the above question to all of you. What do you think?

Resources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/03/health/research/03smoke.html?ref=health

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/CancerPreventionAndTreatment/story?id=6586810&page=1

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/123/1/e74

https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7813124.stm

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#1

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 11:17 AM

Take a sample off of any street or sidewalk in the world and you will find "third hand' auto exhaust as well. Shall we lock our children in little bubbles????

This is just another attempt by bleeding-heart , pink-lung liberals to villify smokers. Go for it. They are coming for your nice fatty rib eye steak next. HA!

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#3
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 11:43 AM

So do conservatives have black lungs and hearts that don't leak blood? :)

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#2

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 11:24 AM

From the "alarm too far" blog:

90% of the nicotine in tobacco smoke sticks to walls, surfaces, soft furnishings, clothes, hair and skin.

That's a nice little "fact"... There are 1000's of chemicals, and 100's of toxins in a cigarette; nicotine isn't the problem. It's an addictive drug that makes you feel good. The small amount that is contained in smoke and sticks to a wall isn't going to have a noticable effect on any kid. Even if he/she licked that wall all day, the paint and bacteria on the wall would be the health risk, not the nicotine...

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#5
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 11:51 AM

Quitting smoking has been the roughest 21 years of my life. That toxin/drug stuff in there is so addicting. Have not smoked for those many years, but still want to.

I know that just the right moment coming in the future; and it's all over.

Back polluting myself and life again

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#7
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 8:01 AM

I have to agree. I was a 2-3 pack a day smoker and I loved it, even though my body didn't. I quit in 1981. I still have dreams about it. Even though I work in cancer center and see the detrimental effects smoking can have on ones health there are times I wish I could pick one up. Have no fear I won't

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#4

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 11:50 AM

I think that it is a combination of both. First of, I know people that try time and again to quit, but it is one of the worst in the habits category. While it is an extension to the dangers about exposing children to tobacco, the first-hand and second-hand smoke should be reason enough to chuck the habit without using a third-hand danger.

I feel as though no one can truly understand what it is like to break a habit of this magnitude, unless you have been through it yourself. I could say that I kicked the habit of biting my nails, something I have done for a long long time and it would not amount to the amount of suffering a smoker has to face. Someone I know resolved to stop chewing. He will still have cigars from time to time, but the nicotine withdrawal from just one thing makes his mood swing like a girl with pms. And I am sure there is plenty more things that go on behind the scenes that I don't know about.

The thing is, parents already know the dangers of smoking around children, and most will go off outside to smoke. It is hard enough to quit as it is, add the pressure of being responsible for other peoples lives and you add the stress that brings them to smoke in the first place. Hopefully there is a common medium to where smokers feel the need to quit, but don't feel all the stress that falls on their shoulders. They need support, not critisism. They already know smoking is bad.

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#6
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/08/2009 4:29 PM

Jaxxy, I totally agree.

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#11
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 12:20 PM

It is hard enough to quit as it is,

One of my friend used to say" It is very simple to quit the smoking. I have done it many times!"

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#8

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 8:35 AM

Personally, I think this is a bit overblown. These chemicals likely ARE present, but at such low levels they are not going to pose a health hazard. Ordinaly unfiltered outdoor air has all sorts of nasties in it, but we don't worry about that sky falling on us. Besides, if third- or even second-hand smoke were all that dangerous, those inhaling the first-hand stuff ought to be dropping like flies. They don't, so why be concerned about a more dilute pollutant?

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#9

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 9:37 AM

I can't vouch for how harmful it is, but I get migraines - the serious kind - I'm on a lot of medication for them. Whenever I'm around a smoker, my clothes and hair (I have the kind of hair that picks up any kind of odor - food, smoke, you name it) smell like smoke until I change and shower.

Smoke exposure is almost guaranteed to give me a headache, if not a migraine, even if it doesn't happen right away. So I think third-hand smoke exists even if people claim it isn't harmful.

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#10
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 10:20 AM

I have a slightly similar problem with smoke and headaches. After I leave a smokers house, or from hanging out with that person, I like to go home and put my clothes immediately in the wash so that I don't have to smell smoke all day. Otherwise, I feel kind of nauseated for the rest of the day.

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#12
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 1:03 PM

I wonder if an ex-smoker would have an opposite reaction? Where the smell of smoke makes the feel good instead of sick.

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#13
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 2:29 PM

Good question, coonj.

I don't know if this holds true for everyone who has kicked the habit, but my friend is an ex-smoker and the smell grosses him out now. He doesn't get sick or anything, but he has remarked about how weird it is that the smell is so disgusting now - especially when just a year or so ago, it was totally fine/normal.

It would be interesting to know how other people react though. I have seen that a few comments in this blog alone have said that they miss smoking; so I'm curious...does smelling other people's cigarettes make you feel like it smells gross, or does it make you want one?

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#15
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 2:56 PM

Being an ex smoker for 27 years I generally detest the smell. There are time however, when I am outside and some smoke wafts my way it smell real good. I then have to think how hard it was to quit to clear my intoxicated head.

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#14
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Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/09/2009 2:53 PM

Every time I go to a smoky bar I get a headache.

Oh wait It may not be the smoke.......

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#16

Re: A Lingering Danger?

01/25/2009 2:31 AM

I never really thought about it as a kid. My mom smoked when she was pregnant. My dad smoked, all four of my grandparents smoked. Almost all of my aunts and uncles smoked. I was pretty much covered in second hand smoke anytime I was indoor as a child, particularly at family get-togethers which were common, I'd say several times per month.

Then, one by one, relatives started to quit or die of cancer. Even my one grandmother, who smoked for 50+ years, gave it up when she turned 76. Damage done, she died at 82 from cancer and emphysema in both lungs, but the doctors said if she didn't quit, she wouldn't have made 77.

I detest the smell of cigarette smoke. I have two friends who smoke a ton and my wife and I avoid going to their house as much as possible because of it. We recently did a road trip with them from Albany, NY to Orlando, FL. We took their car so they could smoke and it was brutal. Most telling was at one point, we could have saved $12 in parking if we all took my wife's grandmother's car as everyone who was going to Universal could fit in it. They chose to pay the additional $12 so they wouldn't have to go the 30 minutes without smoking.

I was very happy when smoking was banned in NY bars and restaurants because you can always smell it. If I am in traffic and am behind a smoker with my window open, it will immediately catch my attention.

And I don't care if it is only a little toxic. Don't hide under the tired rant of calling those of us who hate breathing that garbage pinko bleeding heart liberals. My fatty steak isn't killing anyone but me. Smokers cannot say the same thing and those who don't care that their second hand smoke can affect other people, in my opinion, are akin to drunk drivers. Maybe the affects are not as readily seen, nor as instantly dramatic, but it is the same disregard for other people's well being in action.

Seeing so many relatives quit smoking, I know that it is hard and I greatly respect the daily battle of those of you who have done it. I also appreciate those who go to lengths to reduce their impact on other people so they can feed their addiction. But to say that being concerned about second and third hand smoke is some trumped up whim of people with an agenda to vilify smokers is simply and utterly self-indulgent nonsense.

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