September 13, 2012 8.10 am This story is over 134 months old

Your health: The truth about second and third hand smoke

Passive smoke: Do you know how bad second and thirdhand smoking is to you and children? Lisa Boulton explains the dangers.

Everyone knows that smoking is a harmful pastime; but are you a non-smoker who lives with a smoker, travels in a car with a smoker or is exposed to second or third hand smoke in another way? Then your health is at risk.

What is secondhand smoke (SHS) or passive smoking? SHS is where the toxic fumes from the cigarette being smoked are inhaled by the non-smoker.

The smoke can come from cigars, cigarettes, pipes and hand rolled cigarettes. SHS is toxic to the body and contains over 4,000 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic (cancer causing). Long after a person has smoked, poisonous toxins from the cigarette are still in the air.

A passive smoker compared to a non-smoker, has an increased risk of cancer, CHD, heart attack, angina, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia to name just a few. There is no safe limit to inhaling SHS.

Children and babies who are still developing inhale the toxins faster than adults, so are more at risk of disease, which includes cot death, urinary problems, asthma, coughs & colds, meningitis and diseases of the ears.

So what is thirdhand smoke (THS) then? This is a toxic, residual secondhand smoke that imbeds into your clothes, upholstery, rugs, walls, car seats and other surfaces. This type of smoke lingers for months, even if the smoker moves out of the house and the house is cleaned. It continuously emits particles that are inhaled by any exposed to the areas.

Even if someone smokes away from a group of people or when no one is around, the toxins are impregnated into their clothes and surroundings. In fact, children of parents that smoke outside were found to have eight times more nicotine in their bodies than those whose parents don’t smoke.

Another example of THS is when the neurotoxin nicotine is released from clothing by perspiration, and is deposited on the surface and deep layers of the skin of babies, children and adults alike. The toxins from cigarette smoke damage skin cells, change their shape and in high concentrations die off. Nerve cells are damaged too. The toxic particulates from THS are so small, that they can penetrate into the lungs and could contribute to such things as asthma or even cancer.

So is secondhand and third hand smoke dangerous to those exposed? Definitely.

Lisa Boulton is the Medical Director of Amethyst Health Screening, a local company which carries out health checks and cardiovascular risk assessments for Lincoln residents and local businesses. She contributes on health-related topics for The Lincolnite.