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'Thirdhand smoke' poses danger

Staff Report Published: July 2, 2017 4:00 AM

There is a new smoking danger that affects infants and others in thirdhand smoke, according to the Portage County Combined General Health District.

It's commonly known that smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are harmful. But what is thirdhand smoke?

This relatively new term describes the "sticky" tobacco smoke residue that is left behind after the tobacco smoke stops. It remains on clothing, in hair, on hands, and can build up on surfaces such as carpets and sofas where tobacco smoking occurred.

Thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous for infants and children because they are often held close to hair, clothes, and skin. That build-up also becomes resistant to usual household cleaning, the district said.

"One of the concerns is that a caregiver of a child feel like they are doing the right thing by smoking outside or in another room, not understanding that when they pick up that child they are exposing them to harmful chemicals," said Allison Mitchell, Portage County Health District Tobacco Treatment Specialist. "Children can ingest the tobacco residue by putting their hands in their mouths after touching the contaminated surfaces."

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants who are exposed to thirdhand smoke have an increased chance of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and infants and children exposed to thirdhand smoke have an increased risk of developing asthma.

The CDC states that the overall mortality among both male and female smokers in the U.S. is about three times higher than among people who never smoked. The major causes of death among smokers are cancer, respiratory disease, and vascular disease.

Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard that causes approximately 7,330 lung cancer deaths and 33,950 heart disease deaths each year. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

For those that use tobacco and are thinking about quitting, there are local resources that can help. The Portage County Health District offers free tobacco cessation classes. To learn more, contact Allison Mitchell at 330-296-9919, ext. 129. You can also call the Ohio Department of Health Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.


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