- Jamaicans are being warned about the dangers of third-hand smoke, which is an emerging concern in public health regarding tobacco use.
- Third-hand smoke is defined as residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished.
- Third-hand smoke is quite toxic, and studies have shown that while a lot is still not known, it is linked to early onset of asthma, particularly in children.
Jamaicans are being warned about the dangers of third-hand smoke, which is an emerging concern in public health regarding tobacco use.
Third-hand smoke is defined as residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished.
In an interview with JIS News, Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at the National Chest Hospital, Dr. Terry Baker, said that third-hand smoke presents risks that were not previously identified in medical research.
“Information about third-hand smoke is relatively new and many people are unaware of it,” she noted.
According to Dr. Baker, third-hand smoke is the tobacco residue that is left behind in rooms, hair and vehicles and on drapery, curtains, bedding, clothing and other surfaces.
“This is residue from cigarettes, cigars and any tobacco product, and the concern is that this residue mixes with normal indoor substances and pollutants, and forms very toxic chemicals,” she explained.
“It is now not just a matter of inhaling these chemicals, but the chemicals having been deposited on surfaces stick around for a very long time. You can enter a room or a house that has been vacant for a very long time and you can tell that people who smoke used to live in there, because smoke seemingly has permeated every corner and crevice of the room,” Dr. Baker said.
She added that the residue that has been deposited becomes very sticky, which is the nature of nicotine.
Dr. Baker, who is also a pulmonologist and internist, said it is dangerous for children to embrace parents and caregivers who smoke, as they can also inadvertently ingest the chemical.
Children will be touching contaminated furniture and putting their hands in their mouths, or crawl on the floor with these substances that cannot be easily seen, she noted.
“Third-hand smoke is quite toxic, and studies have shown that while a lot is still not known, it is linked to early onset of asthma, particularly in children. This is because of the carcinogenic substances that are formed by the reaction of the tobacco residue with other indoor pollutants that stick around for months. The potential is now there for toxins that can cause cancer to be ingested or inhaled,” she warned.
The SMO said even if windows are opened, that will not get rid of third-hand smoke, as the residue and toxins that are formed are not airborne, but actually adhere to surfaces.
This is believed to last up to six months. Dr. Baker points out that much work is left to be done.
“We have seen many studies on first-hand and second-hand smoke, but research on third-hand smoke lags behind. So far, at least 11 potential carcinogens have been identified in third-hand smoke in one study,” she noted.