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Thirdhand Smoke

Thirdhand smoke is the term used to identify the toxins left behind after tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes has been put out. It mixes with dust and other particles, building up and becoming more toxic over time.

You may see the yellow-brown residue it can leave on walls and furniture or you may notice a smell of stale smoke in the air - this is thirdhand smoke and it can remain in the place for long periods of time in settings where ongoing smoking has taken place. If you don't notice it, that doesn't mean the area is clear of tobacco smoke residue.

It sticks to items such as:

  • Carpeting, flooring, furniture, walls, vehicle surfaces.
  • Clothing and kids' and pets' toys.
  • Hair and skin.

Thirdhand Smoke Harms Everyone

People and pets can breathe in, swallow, and absorb these toxins through their skin. Babies and young children are at higher risk of exposure because they:

  • Breathe more quickly.
  • Spend more time crawling and playing on the floor and furniture.
  • Put their hands and toys into their mouths often.

Research shows that thirdhand smoke may damage human cells, increase the risk of children becoming overactive, negatively affect the liver and lungs, and lead to heart disease and asthma.

It can also affect the resale value of homes and vehicles. Only one in five adults still smokes. As a result, many people will not buy a home or vehicle where regular smoking has taken place. Surveying of local realtors has also shown that resale values of smokers' homes are often lower than smoke-free homes.

Tips to Limit Thirdhand Smoke

  • Keep your home and vehicle smoke-free.
  • If you smoke, be sure to wash your hands and face, and change clothes before handling infants and children.
  • If moving into a condo or apartment building, ask for a No Smoking building so you can avoid exposure to secondhand smoke from neighbours and thirdhand smoke from previous tenants. 

With information from The Lung Association and Non Smokers' Rights Association.

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