The Dangers of Third Hand Smoke

My husband and I quit smoking about 4-5 months ago and it was one of the hardest things either of us has ever had to do. If you were ever a smoker, you understand that it’s not only a physical & chemical addiction to nicotine, but it’s also psychological habit that takes time to break. Many people also have an emotional connection to smoking. I thought it would be harder for me, then my husband, because not only did I smoke more per day, but most of my close friends still smoke. But it actually turned out to be the complete opposite. The first 2-3 months it was hard being around people who smoked, but once I got to 4 months, I found it be absolutely disgusting. Not only the physical aspect of smoking, but letting something else control you like that, seems so ridiculous after quitting. That of course is what addiction is, but I never saw it from a non-smoker, non-addict point of view. The smell is also horrendous and I rarely noticed it on myself when I was a smoker, but now, I swear I can smell it from several houses down and my eyes water if I am in a store and a heavy smoker is near me. I don’t know how I ever allowed myself to smell like that, let alone be around my nieces & nephews. Smokers do not realize how strongly they smell. Which brings me to the topic of this post; third hand smoke.

Once we stopped smoking, we tried to also improve any other areas of our health that we could. We stopped buying beauty products with parabens,sulfates, EDTA and other harmful chemicals, stopped using deodorant that contained metals and made sure to increase our rate of exercising and change our diets. I also do a great deal of reading; books, articles, case studies, news, etc. I became aware of third hand smoke while I was still a smoker and would frequently change my clothes when I was around my nieces and nephews and would decline holding them if I had not. But only in the last 1-2 years, prior to that, I had no idea what third hand smoke was. I have tried talking to some of my friends who have pets and children, about third hand smoke and they literally don’t want to hear it. One even said, “That’s not a real thing.” Oh, I assure you it is. The more I read about everything associated with smoking, I can’t believe I was stupid enough to continue doing it for so long. Most people are familiar with second hand smoke, which is defined as smoke inhaled involuntary from tobacco that is being smoked by others. Easy to understand and most people are around second hand smoke at some point whether you were in bars and bowling alleys when smoking was still allowed or in a casino today.  Third hand smoke is a whole other concept and I am trying really hard to educate people about this problem.

The first article I ever read on third hand smoke I found after googling the effects of smoking in a car when you child isn’t in it, but having a child in that car regularly. I become enraged when I see people smoking in cars, where there are empty car seats in the back seat. People assume if they open the windows, it will air out by the time they put their child in it the next day and that is not the case. Third hand smoke is defined as the residual nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco that are left on indoor surfaces (i.e. in your house, in your car, on your clothes) by tobacco smoke. Nicotine is sticky and it sticks to most surfaces. My husband use to have to use vinegar to remove the yellowish tobacco residue from the inside of my car windows. I guarantee if you smoke in your car, any surface you wipe down, will come away with a yellow/brown residue INCLUDING your child’s car seat or booster seat. Not to mention the windows in the back of the car that children frequently touch. This residue is a toxic mix of chemicals and clings to hair, skin, clothing, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, vehicles, dust, etc. long after you have stopped smoking. It can not be removed by opening windows, turning on fans or running an air conditioner. Infants and children are at a high risk of tobacco related health problems from third hand smoke, more then adults, because they frequently put their hands on their face & mouths and they do not wash their hands as much as adults. Animals are also at risk from both second and third degree smoke, increasing the occurrence of skin issues, allergies, ear infections and respiratory problems.

Third hand smoke is a relatively new concept and researchers are still studying all of its potential dangers. It is also the reason that people say it’s “not actually real.” I assure you it is. All of the information in this blog post, comes from The Mayo Clinic and The American Lung Association. I know how hard quitting smoking is, I loved smoking and I smoked for over 10 years. But as someone who already has several chronic health issues, I finally decided that I had to break the addiction. I focused on what was more important to me; preparing my body to be pregnant sometime in the near future and how smoking was an addiction and if I didn’t stop now, when would I stop. I would never smoke when trying to get pregnant or when pregnant and I would never smoke, nor would I allow my husband to smoke, after we had children. Second hand smoke is getting to your children and pets, no matter how careful you think you are and third hand smoke is becoming a bigger concern everyday. If you are planning on becoming pregnant, please consider quitting a few months before to allow your body to start the healing process. If you have children, please stop smoking. Your only job as a parent is to take care of that child (children) and smoking causes problems (i.e. ear infections, asthma, allergies) that can be avoided. Everyone always has an excuse and it’s usually related to how stressed out they are. Guess what? Nicotine is a stimulant, like caffeine, it increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. So it’s actually doing the opposite of calming you down. The addiction and emotional connection with smoking makes you think that it is relaxing or calming. You are simply ending the withdrawal from the last time your smoked, which gives you the illusion that the cigarette is calming you down. If you decide that smoking is more important than both your health and your child’s, then please at least have the common sense to never, ever smoke in your car, even if every window is rolled down, your child (and pets) will still be exposed to third hand smoke. You need to smoke outdoors, away from open windows and make sure to at least change your clothes and wash your hands every time you smoke, before coming in contact with a child. Please also have the common courtesy to not smoke in public spaces or standing outside of stores, where people are forced to be exposed to your second hand smoke.

There are many great books that can help you quit smoking. There are an abundance of online resources and your doctor can help you find a counselor or addiction specialist to help you with breaking your addiction. I personally found that reminding myself of why I was quitting, was enough to actually quit and be very happy with that decision. As I stated, all of the information from this blog posting is from The Mayo Clinic and the American Lung Association.

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One thought on “The Dangers of Third Hand Smoke

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