Third Hand Smoke

Yesterday the website printed an article saying that UK research has revealed that third hand tobacco smoke presented health risks to babies and pregnant women. This was news to me but means  “toxic particles in cigarette smoke remaining on household surfaces, as well as hair and clothing!” 

Any thoughts or comments?


#1 Bill Godshall on 01.07.09 at 4:23 PM

I don’t know what BBC article Chris was referring to, but the original article that has generated recent news about third hand smoke is at:

The first news article about Winickoff’s survey
misrepresented the survey’s findings, and subsequent news articles have even further misrepresented the survey’s findings.

Winickoff’s survey simply inquired, and then reported, that a majority of people believed that third hand tobacco smoke was hazardous to children.

While I’ve been a leading advocate of protecting children from tobacco smoke pollution for the past two decades, its clear to me that Winickoff’s survey and his comments in the news media greatly exaggerate the health risks of third hand smoke.

Several years ago, Winickoff wrote the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy opposing tobacco harm reduction products and policies (i.e. informing smokers that smokefree tobacco products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes) because doing so would send the wrong message to youth and that it would encourage more youths to use smokefree tobacco products.

#2 Daniel Beuren on 01.07.09 at 6:47 PM

I do not know what can I think about, because I think very strange is that we seldom have heard some information about drinks. I do not know where it will reach someday. Everyone know that the drinks destroy an entire family and does not the cigarette. In view of this factor, I am sure that each day there are more youths drinking more and more. And so, where is the reason for that?

#3 Smoker Gal on 01.07.09 at 8:28 PM

Daniel I saw the other side of this when a friends father who was a great man was killed in an accident by a drunk driver that was driving in the wrong lanes of a divided highway. The father never stood a chance. Couldn’t decide to not be there! And yes underage drinking is out of control. And one of the remedies is too lower the age of when one can drink. How ironic!

#4 Daniel Beuren on 01.08.09 at 6:53 AM

Gal, I really agree with you. Sometime happen fatalities. I lost my twin brother eight years ago and the reason was the same as you mentioned. I would like to know why there are so many people against the cigarette and forget about the drinks?

#5 FUENTE on 01.09.09 at 4:27 AM

Interestingly, if you read some of the blog roll links like I do you will find some very interesting information on this topic at “The Rest of the Story”

Michael Siegel reports the following plus a lot more:

“This study, while measuring people’s knowledge of the “facts” about thirdhand smoke, failed to document what those facts are. It cited only one paper to support the notion that exposure to thirdhand smoke actually causes clinically meaningful health damage, and as I showed, that study was flawed and didn’t demonstrate what the authors purport that it did.

The fact that tobacco smoke residue that settles during the smoking process can later be subject to offgassing, in which vapors that contain toxic constituents are released into the air, can occur is not being questioned here. What is being questioned is whether the very low levels of exposure that result from this offgassing are clinically meaningful and cause demonstrated harm.

I’ve seen no evidence for that. But it isn’t stopping anti-smoking groups from communicating the dangers of thirdhand smoke to the public and calling for measures to protect people from having to be exposed to smokers, whose “breathe” is so toxic that we cannot allow nonsmokers in the same room.”

#6 RENEGADE on 01.09.09 at 3:57 PM

So will the Surgeon General one day make reference to this report and claim that just being in the same room with an individual that has bad smokers breathe or mere particles on their clothes for a few minutes lead me on the way to disease?

#7 jancascade on 01.10.09 at 10:50 PM

I can hardly wait for the second hand and third hand obesity reports!

#8 Smoking Joe Camel on 01.11.09 at 2:47 AM

jancascade – you will probably find humor in the following:

This Doesn’t Pass The Smell Test (Limerick)
By Madeleine Begun Kane

The stench of Brit pubs once was hidden
By smoke, but now smoking’s forbidden,
And since folks can’t abide
The foul odor, they hide
It with pumped-in-perfume. I’m not kiddin’.

#9 jancascade on 01.11.09 at 5:35 PM

It has been many years since I have gone out to a bar, but we are hearing the same complaint here. The smoke masked the odor of stale spilled beer and vomit in the carpets. People hate the new aroma of the local pubs and stay away more due to the new odor than the smoking ban.

Sadly, the owners cannot afford to close and tear out the old carpet since business is already down.

#10 Sooner from Okie on 01.21.09 at 1:41 AM


Saw a cartoon the other day were two individuals in conversation outside a once frequented bar that was closed up due to the anti-smoke folks imposing their wishes on a bar owner that closed after his business dropped off drastically. It’s a shame that government choses to interfer more than it assists business.

#11 IRON CITY SMOKER on 01.27.09 at 12:35 PM

LET’s Go Steelers! Third hand smoke, give me a break. Next thing they will have is left & right hand smoke! Enough is enough. People need to stop distorting the facts and get a life or just go live in a vacume where life will not affect their mere existence! LET’S Go Steelers!

#12 ???? on 02.03.09 at 1:26 PM

How long did these particles remain on these surfaces ? Was nothing cleaned and therefore one could actually see the particles, like you can see dust when the sun shines on surfaces.

I grew up with 2 parents who smoked and while our drapes, lamp shades, rugs, upholstry did
‘collect’ an odor, etc. we wiped, shampooed, vacuumed, shook, etc. and neither one of my parents have suffered any illnesses from 2nd, 3rd hand smoke.

#13 Ponco on 06.02.09 at 10:20 AM

I developed a product to reduce the ammount of third hand smoke that has caught on pretty well,I could sure use some finacial help to get this project of the groud.
(Is there any help out there?) thanks:Poncho

#14 Desert Dude on 06.02.09 at 11:11 PM

whats your product do poncho?

#15 TAZ on 08.05.10 at 1:37 AM

See post on Siegel Blog:

New Study Shows that Thirdhand Smoke is 100 Times More Dilute than Secondhand Smoke
What may be the first investigation to actually measure the ambient levels of thirdhand smoke and compare them with levels of secondhand smoke, a new study published in the current issue of Tobacco Control reports that concentrations of particulate matter in thirdhand smoke were 100 times lower than in secondhand smoke, measured in the same room (see: Becquemin M. Third-hand smoking: indoor measurements of concentration and sizes of cigarette smoke particles after resuspension. Tobacco Control 2010; 19:347-348).

Here’s what the study did:

“A smoking device burned 10 cigarettes in 30 minutes in a non-ventilated furnished room that was then kept closed. On the next day, for particle resuspension, we mobilised the dust on furniture, clothes and surfaces by wiping and shaking and created even more turbulence with a ventilator. An impactor (ELPI) measured the particle sizes (between 0.28 μm and 10 μm) and concentration in the air, 60 cm above the floor: on the first day before and after the cigarettes were smoked (secondhand smoke) then 4 hours later, 24 hours later, before and after resuspension manoeuvres (thirdhand smoke).”

Here’s what the study found:

“after cigarette smoking: the airborne particles … concentration was divided by 100 in the first 4 hours and again by 100 in the following 24 hours. After resuspension, the concentration was multiplied by 100, going back to that observed 4 hours after smoking.”

The study concludes: “These quantitative data support the hypothesis of a resuspension from the cigarette smoke surface contamination. However, this airborne contamination through resuspension remains much lower (100 times) than that of secondhand smoke.”

The Rest of the Story

This study confirms that thirdhand smoke is a real phenomenon. Particles that deposit on surfaces during smoking can later become re-suspended in the air. Importantly, however, even under these conditions of extreme agitation of the deposited particles (wiping, shaking, and ventilator turbulence), the particulate concentration in the thirdhand smoke was two orders of magnitude lower than in the secondhand smoke.

This study confirms what I have been asserting repeatedly since the thirdhand smoke “scare” was initiated: yes, it’s true that thirdhand smoke exists, but the levels of exposure are so low that there is no substantial health risk to anyone – other than to infants or those who are extremely sensitive to tobacco smoke – and even for those groups, the risks are small compared to the secondhand smoke. Thus, thirdhand smoke becomes a theoretical, but not a practical, health concern.

These data also appear to refute the claim by Action on Smoking and Health that smokers themselves pose a hazard to nonsmoking workers by bringing in particles deposited on their clothes that will later enter the air and exposes nonsmokers. The data clearly argue against policies that deny employment to smokers based on the potential health hazards of thirdhand smoke exposure among their fellow workers.

These data also appear to refute the assertion that thirdhand smoke is a substantial health concern in general. If people live in a home with smokers who smoke in the home, the secondhand smoke exposure will be so much higher than the thirdhand smoke exposure that it renders the effect of the thirdhand smoke essentially meaningless. And if the only exposure is thirdhand smoke due to the smoker smoking outside the home but bringing back particles on his or her hair and clothing, then there seems to be no concern at all about significant health effects.

This research should put the faddish focus on thirdhand smoke where it belongs: in the circular file. Unfortunately, the state of California is devoting millions of dollars to a research program that focuses on….

… you guess it…..

…thirdhand smoke.

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