Effects of ‘thirdhand’ smoke pose health threat

That smell lingering hours after cigarettes have been put out is more dangerous than once expected, specialists say.
According to a local researcher who participated in a national study, many smokers aren’t aware that “thirdhand” smoke exposure is harmful.

Along with his colleagues, Mississippi State University professor Robert McMillen coined the term “thirdhand” smoke, which is defined as residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after cigarettes are extinguished. These residues contain harmful dust, volatile compounds and deadly carcinogens.

“They typically don’t leave the room, even with circulation,” McMillen said.

Residue can settle into curtains, sofas, floors where babies crawl and smokers’ clothes. It can also linger in smokers’ breath for several hours after they have smoked, McMillen said.

Additionally, the younger population seems to be more affected by tobacco exposure.

Infants ingest dust more than twice the amount of adults and children without tobacco regulations can suffer cognitive deficits compared to children from smoke-free homes.

These studies undermine the long-accepted myth that smoking with open windows or smoking only when family members are gone is a safe measure.

In a research article called “Beliefs About the Health Effects of ‘Thirdhand’ Smoke and Home Smoking Bans,” researchers began with a hypothesis that knowledge of a local no-smoking policy in restaurants and bars would be associated with a home smoking ban.
Some 1510 of the 2,000 people contacted were interviewed on the phone.

While an overwhelming majority of smokers and nonsmokers agreed that second hand smoke harms children, 65.2 percent of nonsmokers and 43.3 percent of smokers agreed that thirdhand smoke harms children.

“This study demonstrates that beliefs about the health effects of thirdhand smoke are independently associated with home smoking bans,” the study reads.

“Emphasizing that thirdhand smoke harms the health of children may be an important element in encouraging home smoking bans.”
McMillen says that identifying the health risks of thirdhand smoke will increase awareness, eventually leading to healthier homes and lives.

The article, which made national news, gives more weight to public health initiatives for towns, such as Starkville, which have banned smoking in public places, exterminating third-hand smoke risks altogether.

In fact, since the Starkville’s smoking ordinance was enacted four years ago, McMillen found a 27 percent decrease in the number of heart attacks reported at Oktibbeha County Hospital.

While Starkville was not mentioned specifically in the new article about thirdhand smoking, it says that banning smoking in not just restaurants but also bars will reflect a community that frowns on smoking in general.

“Having no ban in bars or restaurants may reflect a community with a less permissive social norm that simply had not considered the local ordinance yet at the time of the survey,” the study reads. “This finding may indicate that a strong community social norm affects home policy.”

source: starkvilledailynews.com

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