“Where are you going, Papa? Watch this comedy show with us.” shouted little Mysha at her father. To which he replied, “I’ll be back in 5 minutes, I’ll have a stroll on the balcony”. Little Mysha knew in her heart, why her father is going in the balcony, to light up that poison stick. But, what she hated the most was when her father was back from the “stroll” in the balcony and came back to her, with that lingering smell from his hands and clothes which she disliked.
Do you think, it’s only the smell that’s a problem or is there something more to it. Well, we all accept that we should not smoke in public, thanks to the government, who has taken disciplinary actions for not smoking in public places. That’s a good initiative for avoiding second-hand smoke. But, what about the third-hand smoke? Yes, the third-hand smoke.
Let us elaborate on second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke.
When non-smokers are exposed to the smoke emitting from the lighted end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, or tobacco burning in a hookah and the smoke exhaled by smokers, it is called involuntary or passive smoking or second-hand smoking (SHS). It is also called as environmental tobacco smoke(ETS). This particular smoke is rich in carcinogenic factors or other chronic illness causing particles.
Third-hand smoke is the contamination on the surfaces of the objects caused by the lingering of tobacco smoke after the cigarette has been put out and the second-hand smoke has been cleared.
Basically, even after the smoker has put out the cigarette, cigar, pipe or hookah, the toxic chemicals still stick around in the air. This then gets trapped in hair, skin, clothes, furniture, toys, carpet etc. This builds up over a period of time. This trapped smoke chemical is then inhaled by people affecting their lungs and bodies. Third-hand smoke affects people even after the smoking has been stopped.
The only way to avoid third-hand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment.
Is second hand or third-hand smoke harmful?
An insight into some shocking figures about passive smoking (WHO numbers)
– About 41% male and 39% Indian female population is exposed to passive smoking
– Out of this 32% male and about 19%, female exposures happens at work
– Every year, tobacco kills over 1.3 million people in WHO’s Southeast Asian region, including those who have never smoked.
– Globally, over six lakh people die every year due to passive smoking, including 1.65 lakh children even before they celebrate their fifth birthday
– Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) causes an estimated 5% of the global burden of disease, slightly higher than the burden from direct use of tobacco.
Effects of passive smoking on non-smokers
ETS or Sidestream smoke is known to contain much higher levels of harmful chemicals than mainstream smoke. It contains at least thrice as much carbon monoxide, about 10-30 times nitrosamines and between 15-30 times more ammonia than active smoking. There are some immediate effects and some long-term effects.
Some of the immediate effects are:
– Eye irritation
– Sore throat
Long-term effects are:
ETS has more than 7,000 chemicals (like hydrogen cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide), out of which 70 are potential carcinogens. It increases the risk of lung cancer even in people who have never smoked.
– Further, it is also linked to cancers of larynx, pharynx, nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach and breasts.
– Particularly in children, there is significantly increased risk of lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer and brain tumors.
– It majorly causes scarring of lung tissue (fibrosis), which worsens with an increased exposure leading to a loss in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, thereby leading to reduced oxygen content to the vital organs.
– Other respiratory problems, like asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, wheezing, sore throat, coughs and headaches are possible outcomes of passive smoking, particularly in children.
– Passive smoking increases a child’s susceptibility to meningitis, severe ear infections, cot death (Sudden Infant Death syndrome, SIDS) and chronic coughs.
– SHS causes platelets to become stickier, resulting in the clotting of the blood. This majorly blocks the artery leading to hypertension and increased chances of heart attack.
– Miscarriages, premature delivery, reduced birth weight, learning disabilities and other mental disorders are linked to SHS during pregnancy.
Tips to prevent passive smoking – second hand and third-hand smoke
1. There is no safe level of inhaling SHS. One should totally avoid being exposed to the poisonous air.
2. Do not allow people around you, your co-workers, family members, or fellow passengers to smoke. Smoke from a cigarette can linger in the surrounding space for hours after.
3. Request your guests to avoid smoking at your place or near your children.
4. Avoid smoking in the car or at home.
5. Discourage smoking in the carpeted rooms.
6. Always wash your hands and face after every smoke.
7. Take a shower including head wash if you had been in the smoking area for long.
8. Try visiting those public places like cinema theatre, restaurants, hotels, and even spa parlors that are 100% smoke-free.
9. Ask your caregivers and those at the daycare or school area to refrain from smoking in areas where your child plays and spends time.
10. Opening windows or cleaning normally wouldn’t be of much help in cleaning third-hand
smoke. Use some acidic medium such as vinegar to clean the surfaces off the third-hand
smoke.(It might not be a practical approach because of its smell or cause discoloration of the fabric).
Above all, the best way to avoid hazardous effects of smoke is to quit smoking and prefer smoke-free public places.