Drugs & Health Blog

“Third-hand Smoke”: A Lingering Problem

The NIDA Blog Team

You probably know that using tobacco isn’t safe. It’s not safe to smoke it yourself, and it’s not safe to breathe in “secondhand smoke” from other people’s smoking. Now, research has found that the negative effects of tobacco smoke can stick around for a lot longer than we even knew.

Researchers are investigating the effects of “third-hand smoke”—the toxins (poisonous chemicals) from smoking that can stay behind in dust, on walls, curtains, carpets, even in your car, after someone has been smoking. One study found that the toxins from smoking collect on surfaces as dust or residue, and then are gradually released into the air, where they can be inhaled (breathed in). This process is called “off-gassing.”

According to another study, levels of third-hand smoke were much higher in houses where people smoked—even if they smoked outside—than in houses where people never smoked. The levels of toxins a person inhales from third-hand smoke are much less than they’d get from smoking tobacco, but even low levels of those toxins are still unhealthy.

And who can forget the high school student scientists who showed that third-hand smoke created changes in baby fruit flies?

So, there’s no such thing as a “safe level of smoking.” If you don’t smoke, you’re not only protecting your own health; you’re also protecting the health of the people around you—and other people you may never even see. 

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

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