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Third Hand Smoke

Third Hand Smoke

It is beyond doubt that smoking is extremely dangerous and it can kill the smoker. Besides that, secondhand smoke has also been shown to threaten the lives of people who are present around someone who is smoking. Nonetheless, do you know that those are not all; and that the risks from the cigarette extend way beyond that?

Three years ago, a group of researchers consisting of pediatricians in the United States discovered yet another threat from the cigarette. The study found that residues from cigarette smoke still lingers within the spaces where the cigarette was lighted even long after it has been extinguished. During that period, thousands of toxic chemicals comprised of gases and particles previously suspended in the air are no longer visible. However, the reality is that these poisons (Figure 1) have settled down and accumulated on the smoker’s body, clothes and hair. Likewise the toxic materials had also fallen and deposited on equipment, furniture, cushions, flooring and carpets.

The word being used to refer to this mixture of toxins is ‘third hand smoke’. It is identified to contain, amongst others, heavy metals, nitrosamines and radioactive matter,out of which 11, are considered class A carcinogeus.

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Figure 1 : Picture of cigarette smoke and poisons

A big proportion of smokers are also fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers to small children. As responsible, loving people, these smokers would often open up windows, switch on the fans or even choose to only smoke in another place or at other times away from the presence of their little ones. Unfortunately, it is never known to them that a father, who has had a cigarette smoked in another place or even after a long time lapse, would still post hazards to the health and life of his child the moment they make contact. This is because they both would then share third hand smoke (THS) attached to daddy’s clothes, body and hair.

The study also revealed that apart from sticking on to the body, it is very difficult to get rid of THS remaining on articles and room spaces where someone had smoked in, even after proper cleaning.

Experts say that these findings provide additional evidence about the dangers that cigarettes pose upon non-smokers especially vulnerable groups like children and babies. Since it is inevitable for these groups to crawl, play on the floor and put items into their mouths (Figure 2), such behaviors would then facilitate THS to stick firmly on to their body parts and get ingested.

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Figure 2: Baby crawling on the floor

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Figure 3: Happy and healthy family

Although invisible, actually you are still able to detect third hand smoke from the odour of stale smoke in the air left by the smoker. Your noses and brains are very sensitive organs able to sense the smell of toxins and thus prompting you to leave the scene.

These research results should instill awareness among adult smokers particularly parents with very young children. There are already more than enough evidences concerning the hazards of smoking cigarettes that inflict on smokers and others, worst when these other people are your own flesh and blood, who meant so much in your lives. If you are indeed truly responsible and caring human beings, please stop your smoking habit right now (Figure 3). Consider this struggle as an obligatory endeavor.


We can only prove something through experiment. Most evidence with regards to smoking related consequences and based on observation epidemic.