Creating environments that are free from tobacco smoke is an important step in protecting the health of adults, children, infants, unborn babies and pets. The health risks from secondhand and thirdhand smoke can linger long after a person who smoked has moved on or butted out.

Child petting black cat in a living room
Photo by @chewy from Unsplash

Why is secondhand smoke a risk to everyone?

Secondhand smoke refers to the smoke in the air that is exhaled by a person who smokes or that is from the end of a cigarette. All types of smoked tobacco products produce secondhand smoke, including cigars, pipes and waterpipes such as shisha.

Secondhand smoke is made up of chemical compounds that are toxic to the human body. Research has shown that particles from secondhand smoke can remain in the air for five or six hours after smoking has stopped.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke as all exposure carries risk. Those who have less control over their environment, such as children, those experiencing social disadvantage and people who are incarcerated are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

You can read more about secondhand smoke here.

‘This is a fresh air site’ poster from Make Smoking History
‘This is a fresh air site’ poster available from Make Smoking History

And what about thirdhand smoke?  

Thirdhand smoke occurs when cigarette smoke settles onto clothing, skin, hair and objects around the environment. It can be absorbed by walls, furniture, clothes, toys and other objects and surfaces within as little as 10 minutes to hours after a cigarette has been smoked inside.

Nicotine levels on home surfaces have been shown to decrease after the occupier changes from a person who smokes to a non-smoker; however,it still remains present in the air and on surfaces. It has been detected on the skin of non-smoking residents up to two months after moving into these premises. As cleaning may not always be sufficient in removing nicotine and other thirdhand smoke particles, the best protection from thirdhand smoke is for surfaces to not be exposed to tobacco smoke.

Nicotine has even been found in neonatal intensive care units, which demonstrates that nicotine can be introduced to environments where smoking has never occurred. In this study, nicotine contamination was present on the cots and other hospital furniture as well as in the urine of the newborn babies who had a parent who smoked.

Thirdhand smoke can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. This is concerning as young children often put objects in their mouths and tend to be in close physical contact with their parents.

Baby  playing with colourful plastic numbers on the ground
Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Reducing the risk for everyone

The best thing you can do is create an environment free from tobacco smoke for yourself and those around you. Tobacco free environments play a critical role in reducing the risks posed by secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

For more information on how you can create an environment that is free from tobacco smoke, contact Make Smoking History who can assist you to make the change.

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