Secondhand and Thirdhand smoke

Not only is the smoker at risk for tobacco-related illnesses, but non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke are at greater risk for developing serious chronic diseases. In fact, secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year (American Lung Association). Health consequences linked to secondhand smoke in adult non-smokers include cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, allergies, and increased frequency of asthma attacks.

Children and Secondhand Smoke

Around 35% of children in the U.S. have been exposed to secondhand smoke in some capacity. This equates to more than 23 million children. In children under 18 months of age, secondhand smoke causes between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections which result in 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year (American Lung Association). In children alone, secondhand smoke increases the possibility of ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory symptoms, and respiratory infections.

Thirdhand Smoke

Cigarette smoke leaves a lingering toxic residue in furniture, curtains and on other household surfaces. This residue is called thirdhand smoke. When people smoke indoors it leaves active harmful chemicals in homes and workplaces.

Thirdhand smoke contains a number of toxic cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, lead, and cyanide. Thirdhand smoke can cling to everything: hair, clothes, dust, furniture, car upholstery, restaurant walls, bowling alley floors… anywhere.

The nicotine in tobacco smoke also reacts with other common chemicals found in indoor air to form new carcinogens. Toxic chemicals continue to be produced on any surface the smoke touches. This process continues over time, increasing exposure and contamination. As reported in the 2006 and 2014 Surgeon General’s Reports, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

For more information about thirdhand smoke, please visit: Indiana Tobacco Quitline and Indiana State Department of Health