Health Concerns on Thirdhand Smoke (THS)

Updated: Aug 31

Generally, people are quite familiar with the bad health effects of firsthand and secondhand smoke. It is a common knowledge that smoking is linked to many diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, and stroke.


However, a fairly new concept-- thirdhand smoke (THS) has emerged and ongoing studies are being done by various researchers to understand how it could affect our health.

Question:

What is thirdhand smoke?


Answer:

Although first discovered in 1953, the term thirdhand smoke (THS) became popular when it was coined by Winickoff et al in 2009 in the journal Pediatrics.


THS refers to the thin layer of tobacco smoke chemicals that remain lingering in rooms and surfaces long after smoking has stopped. When nicotine combines with nitrous acid found in indoor air potent carcinogens, called tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), are formed. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the TCNAs rose 10 times after exposure to nitrous acid.


The tobacco smoke is absorbed in nearby surfaces such as skin, hair, clothes, toys, carpet, dust in a room, walls, ceilings, rugs, curtains and other fabrics, and vehicles, and is re-emitted back into the air.


THS residue tends to accumulate on surfaces and could remain for up to six 6 within the homes of smokers even after smoking has stopped. Meanwhile, an article from Respiratory Health Association cited that nicotine can still be detected in ceiling tiles even after 30 years since a cigarette has been extinguished.


Question:

How does thirdhand smoke enter our body?


Answer:

Chemicals from THS can invade our body through our skin pores (integumentary system), dust inhalation (respiratory system) and ingestion (digestive system).


According to Winickoff et al,

"Children are especially susceptible to thirdhand smoke exposure because they breathe near, crawl and play on, touch, and mouth contaminated surfaces."

Question:

How can we prevent exposure to thirdhand smoke?


Answer:

Dr Hays cited that creating a well-ventilated environment, using fans or air conditioning units, or designating smoking areas do not remove our risk of exposure to the harmful THS pollutants. Since these chemicals build up on surfaces and fabrics, contaminated objects must be regularly washed or laundered.


Scientific evidences on the effects of THS is scarce at this time but knowing there are risks means it could potentially lead to unwanted health issues.


Nonetheless, family members who smoke might reconsider quitting the habit knowing that they create risks for their loved ones even if they go into a separate room to smoke.


It is important to talk to your healthcare provider to get the best, personalized and professional advice and to assist you in choosing healthy options.



We strive hard to reach our dreams to enjoy life to its fullest, but remember to take care of your health. Becoming successful in our career goals and accumulating wealth would be useless if we won't be able to enjoy it because of poor health.


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